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Desiderius Erasmus 

the Aim and Method of Education 

tlonDon: C. J. CLAY and SONS, 




leMJjifl: F. A. BROCKHAUS. 


Bombag anti Calcutta: MACMILLAN AND CO.. Ltd. 

[A// Rights reserved] 

Desiderius Erasmus 

the Aim and Method of Education 



Professor of Education in the University of Liverpool 
Author of f^ittorino da Feltre 

at the University Press 







THE scope of the present study of Erasmus is 
defined by its title. I have directed attention to 
one aspect only of his work and personality. That 
aspect of Erasmus is of profound importance. Indeed 
it may be reasonably maintained that of all his activi- 
ties none was more congenial to him, none more 
characteristic, none of more influence in his own age 
and subsequently than that which was concerned with 

Yet although the limitations of the subject have 
not been lost sight of, it has been, from the nature of 
it, necessary to take a wider view of the attitude of 
Erasmus to the problems of his time than a hasty 
reading of the title of this book might suggest. For 
it is obviously impossible to understand and to present 
aright the Erasmian ideal of the fit training of the 
young unless the presuppositions upon which it rests 
are duly examined. Thus a brief historical review of 
the literary life of Erasmus was called for, though it 
seemed well to make clear the limits of the purpose 
for which it was compiled. Much that fills so large 


vi Preface 

a space in the approved biographies of Erasmus has 
been in effect ignored, as but remotely affecting the 
subject of this enquiry. On the other hand I have 
endeavoured to reaUse with precision the appeal which 
Antiquity made to Erasmus and the message which he 
beHeved it to convey to the modern world. Compared 
with this his share in the Lutheran conflict seems to 
me to be, in a serious appraisement of Erasmus, as 
unimportant as it was to himself distasteful. 

The deepening interest in educational enquiry which 
marks the present time will, we may confidently hope, 
extend to the study of the aims and achievements of 
the educators of the past. Next to the great Italian 
Masters of the Quattrocento Erasmus makes claim for 
serious recognition. The actual degree of his influence 
in Germany and England it is difficult to assess, and 
writers have differed in their judgments. But if it 
should be provable that Erasmus left less direct impress 
upon school organisation or methods than certain of 
his contemporaries, the reason will be found in the fact 
that he was on crucial points so far in advance of public 
opinion, that he took so wide, so truly humanist, a view 
of the scope of education that in the troubled times of 
sectarian partisanship his day was not yet. In certain 
regards we must feel as we study such a work as the 
De Pneris statini ac liberaliter instituendis, contained in 
English dress in the present volume, that he speaks 
with a note unexpectedly " modern." As we realise 
therefrom the depth of Erasmus' conviction of the 
respect due to the rights of the child we understand, what 
we may have already suspected, how far a prevalent 

Preface vii 

type of criticism of Humanist methods has been based 
upon ignorance of the facts. 

It is indeed of the first importance that the student 
of the history of educational thought should be led to 
acquaintance at first hand with the men whose doctrines 
are under discussion. Only upon this condition can the 
study of the subject be regarded as worthy of serious 
recognition as an aspect of literary and historical 

In the study of Erasmus the text is the first, the 
second and the third authority : and I have built up 
my exposition upon repeated readings of the treatises, 
prefaces, and letters pertinent to the subject. The 
range of Erasmian literature is notoriously immense. 
To distinguish the works which have proved specially 
prolific of suggestion is scarcely possible. But two 
may be here singled out as of first rate importance to 
students of Erasmus. The Letters of Erasmus by 
Mr F, M. Nicholls carries down the correspondence to 
1509: a second volume which is, I am glad to know, 
to appear very shortly, will include the year 1517. The 
correspondence of Erasmus so far as it is of bio- 
graphical interest — in a very wide sense — is presented 
in an English version, with most careful apparatus of 
preface and note. Without necessarily accepting every 
disputed attribution or date, I can affirm that no more 
valuable aid to the understanding of Erasmus down to 
the Cambri(3ge period has yet seen the light, whether 
in this country or in Germany. The second work to 
which allusion is made is the analysis of the psycho- 
logical presuppositions of Erasmus' educational doctrine 


viii Preface 

of Dr Hermann Togel, Die pddagogischen Anschautmgen 
des Erasmus in ihrer psychologischen Begriindiing. The 
author, however, is prone to see everything in terms of 
Herbartianism, to the detriment of his historical per- 

I desire to express my obh'gations to Miss May 
Allen, Mr John Sampson, University Librarian, and 
Mr E. Gordon Duff, for kind assistance at different 
stages of my work. Miss Allen has been particularly 
helpful in the bibliographical section. 

The University, Liverpool, 
February i, 1904. 



Preface v 

Chronological Outline xi 



I. An Outline of the Life of Erasmus . . i 

1 1 . Characteristics. 

§ I. Erasmus and Antiquity 30 

§ 2. The Reconciliation of the Antique with the 

Christian Spirit 39 

{^ 3. Erasmus and the Ciceronians . . • 5' 

§ 4. Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues . . 60 

III. The Educational Aim of Erasmus. 

§ I. The General Purpose of Education . . 72 
§ 2. The Three Factors of Human Nature . . ^^ 
§ 3. Limitations of the Educational Ideal . . 83 

IV. The Beginnings of Education. 

§ I. Earliest Care 86 

§ 2. Health and Physical Well-being of Young 

Children 87 

§ 3, Home Instruction 

§ 4. School-life and Home Instruction . 

§ 5. The Qualifications of the Master . 

§ 6. The Beginnings of Systematic Instruction 

§ 7. Discipline 






The Liberal Studies. 

§ I. The Teaching of Grammar .■ . . . loi 

§ 2. The Choice of Authors in General . • , ' ^ ^ 

§ 3. Method of Reading an Author . . .115 

§ 4. Orators and Oratory 120 

§ 5. Composition in Latin Prose . . • .123 

§ 6. History and Historians 128 

§ 7. Logic and Philosophy 133 

§ 8. Greek Studies, and the Argument for them . 135 

§ 9. Mathematics and Nature Knowledge . .138 

§ 10. The Education of Girls ..... 148 

§ II. Moral Training : Character as the Supreme 

End of Education 154 


VL The Treatise De Ratione Sttidii, that is, Upon the Right 
Method of Instruction ( 1 5 1 1 ) 

Vn. The Treatise De Pueris statim ac liberaliter insti- 
tuendis, that is, The Argument of Erasmus of Rot- 
terdam, that Children should straightway from 
their earliest years be trained iti Virtue and Sound 

VIII. I. De Conscribendis Epistolis, 
Method of mastering a 
Classical Author 
II. From the Colloquy entitled Convivium Reli- 

giosum 226 

Bibliographical Lists. 

(i) List of Books quoted and referred to . .231 
(ii) List of first recorded Editions of English 

Versions of Educational Works by Erasmus 235 

Index 240 

Cap. Liv. : The 
Passage from a 








The Life and Writings of Erasmus. 

1466 Erasmus born at Rotterdam (Oct. 27). 







At school at Gouda ; afterwards at Choir School, Utrecht. 

He is sent to school at Deventer. 

He is transferred to the school of the Brethren at Bois- 

He enters the Augustinian Monastery at Stein. 

He is at work on Valla and upon the Anti-barbari. 

Ordained priest. 

Quits the Monastery. 

A student at the University of Paris. 


Contemporary Events in the History of Humanism. 




147 1 





149 1 


Hegius becomes Head Master at Deventer. 

The first Printing Press in Italy set up at Subiaco. 

The printers Sweynheim and Pannartz remove to Rome. 

Ed. Princ. of Cicero, De Oratore (Rome). 

Edd. Prince, of Vergil, Livy, Letters of Cicero, etc. 

First Press set up at Venice. 

First Press set up at Paris. 

Sixtus IV founds the first Papal Museum of Antiquities 

on the Capitol. 
First Greek Press set up : at Milan. 
Caxton sets up his Press at Westminster. 
R. Agricola at Deventer. 

Death of Francisco Filelfo. 
Reuchlin at Rome. 

Ficino completes the Latin version of the Dialogues of 

Culminating period of the Platonic Academy of Florence. 
Accession of Henry VII of England. Angelo Poliziano 

made Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry in the Studio 

of Florence. Linacre goes to Italy. 
The Ed. Princ. of Homer published at Florence. Grocyn 

goes to Italy. 

Grocyn teaches Greek at Oxford. 
Death of Lorenzo dei Medici. 

Death of Poliziano. The Invasion of Italy by Charles VIII 
of France. The Aldine Press set up in Venice. 

xiv The Life and Writings of Erasmus 

He composes the Commendatory Letter to Gaguin's 

A teacher of Latin in Paris. 

June. His first visit to England : Oct. — Dec. at Oxford. 

Jan. He leaves England for Paris. Adagia (Paris). Be- 
gins to devote himself to study of Greek. 

April. Passes through Press an edition of Cicero, De 
Officits, now lost. 

In Artois : Aug. at Louvain. 

Enchiridion Mil. Christiaiii (Antwerp). 
His second visit to England: April, 1505 — May, 1506. 

L. Vallensis in N. Test. Adnotationes. 
His versions of Hecuba and Iphigenia in Aulide ; and of 

Luciani Dialogi. Sets out for Italy (June) : Turin, 

Florence, Bologna. 
At Bologna. Dec, to Venice. 
At Venice. New editions oi Adagia and of versions 

of Euripides. Nov., to Padua ; Dec, to Siena. 
Feb., to Rome and Naples. Returns to England ; Moriae 

Encomium (Paris). 
In England. 
At Cambridge (Aug.). De Ratione Studii (Paris). De 

Copia (Basel). 

Plutarchi Opuscula (Basel). 
Catonis Praecepta. 

Quits England : in Flanders : at Basel. Institutum 
Hominis Christiani (London). 

At Basel : Flanders : England. Novum Instrumentum 
(Basel) : Hieronymi Opera (do.) : Gasds Greek Gra^n- 
mar translated (do.) : Colloquia (do.) : Querela Pads 
(do.) : Institutio Principis C/iristiani (Louvam). 

Events m the History of Humanism xv 

Colet returns from Italy to lecture at Oxford. 

Wimpheling's Isidoneus Germanicus published. 
Ed. Princ. of Aristophanes (Aldus). Execution of Savo- 
Linacre returns to England. 

Ed. Princ. of Sophocles (Aldus). 

Foundation of University of Wittenberg. Ed. Princ. of 

Thucydides (Aldus). 
Death of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. 

Reuchlin's De Rudimeniis Hebraicis appears. 

Guicciardini compiles his Historia Fiorentina. 

Accession of Henry VIII. The Reuchlin controversy 

Colet's foundation of St Paul's. 

W. Lily made High Master of St Paul's. Isagogicon in 

Graecas litems, by Simler (Tiibingen). 
Feb., death of Julius II. March, election of Leo X. // 

Principe of Machiavelli completed. 

Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum issued. 
More's Utopia. Foundation of Corpus Christi Coll., Oxford. 
// Cortegiano of Castiglione finished. Italian grammar of 
Fortunio (Ancona). 

xvi The Life and Writings of Erasmus 

Brussels : England (April) : Antwerp : Louvain. 

At Basel. Anti-barbari i. (Cologne). 

Settles at Louvain. 

Leaves Louvain. 

Takes up residence at Basel. 

Definitive Edition of Colloquia (Basel). 

Paraphrases upon Four Gospels. 

Concerned with Ciceronian controversy. De Cvvilitate 
Morum pueriliuin (Basel). In. Christ. Matriin. (Basel). 
Condemnation of the Colloquies by the University of Paris. 
Ciceronianus composed. 

Quits Basel for Freiburg in Breisgau. De Pueris Insti- 
tuendis Basel). 

Apophthegmata (Basel). 
Terentii Opera (Basel). Basilii Magni Opera (Basel). 
Erasmus returns to Basel- 
Death of Erasmus at Basel (July 12). 

Events in the History of Humanism xvii 

Collegium Trilingue at Louvain opened. Luther's Theses 
at Wittenberg. 

The Ins tituti ones Grammaticae Graecae of Melanchthon. 
Universities of Erfurt and Leipsic come under human- 
ist control. Melanchthon teaches Greek at Wittenberg. 

Controversy in Rome on Ciceronianism. 

Death of Leo X. 

Jan., accession of Adrian VI : his death, Sept. Clement 
VII, Pope. J. Sturm a pupil at Li^ge. 

J. L. Vives, De causis corruptarum Artium and De Tra- 
dendis Disciplinis published. 

Luther's appeal for establishment of burgher schools. 

Bembo, Delia Volgar Ungua published. 

The Gymnasium of Nuremberg organised by Melanchthon. 

Death of Froben. The Sack of Rome. 
Schul-Ordnung of Elector of Saxony. // Cortegiano pub- 
Budaeus publishes his Commentarii Linguae Graecae. 

Coronation of Charles V at Bologna. End of the Floren- 
tine Republic. Diet of Augsburg. 

Elyot's Governour. The First Oration of Julius Caesar 
Scaliger Against Erasmus^ in defence of M. T. Cicero, 

Foundation of the College de Guyenne at Bordeaux. 
The Pantagruel of Rabelais published. 
Foundation of the Society of Jesus. 
The Gargantua of Rabelais first (?) published. 
The De Ciceroniana imitatione of Dolet (Lyons). 

Note. The titles of authorities as given in the foot-notes are 
brief titles. For exact identification of Author, Work, and Edition 
quoted, the Bibliographical List (i), on page 231, should be 
consulted. The references to the writings of Erasmus are 
uniformly made to the Leyden edition of 1 703, inn voll. f". 




Erasmus was born at Rotterdam on October 27th, 1466^ 
He and his brother Peter, some three years his senior, were the 
offspring of a union unsanctified by the Church. His parents 
were Gerard of Gouda and Margaret, the daughter of a physician 
of Zevenberge. Their marriage had been obstructed by the 
family of Gerard, but at the time of the birth of Erasmus there 
would seem to have been a legal bar to the union, in the fact 
that the father was in priest's orders I The connection of 
Erasmus with Rotterdam rests probably on the circumstance 
of his mother's residence in that city when he was born. 

There is no ground for doubt that the name Erasmus was 
given him at baptism after a Saint and Martyr held in reverence 
in the Low Countries and in England^. The common prae- 
nomen Desiderius was added as a Latin equivalent by Erasmus 
himself; Roterodamus completed the triple designation with 
which Roman usage made him familiar. The first edition of 

^ The evidence for 1466 is set out by Richter, Erasmus- Studien^ p. v; 
Nicholls, The Epistles of Erasmus, p. 474, has arrived at the same conclu- 
sion. The date usually given is 1467. 

^ See Nicholls, Epistles, p. 14. 

' Erasmus was a martyred Bishop of Campania, who suffered under 

W. - I 

Childhood of Erasmus 

the Adagia (1500) bears the full title: Desyderius Erasmus 

The common assumption that Erasmus was a name 
fancifully devised by its bearer to express in Greek form the 
meaning 'beloved' contained in the Flemish Gerrit or Gerard 
is unnecessary. 

The circumstances of their birth inevitably clouded the 
home-life of the two boys, and we know that throughout his 
career Erasmus felt the slur which was cast upon his mother's 
name and his own. As late as 15 16 he sought for formal relief 
from the disability attaching to his origin by papal dispensation. 
Moreover, it is not unlikely that this same "invidious bar" may 
have materially influenced his guardians in the action which 
they took in respect of his future career at the time of his 
parents' death. And when towards the close of his life Erasmus 
became involved in bitter controversies, religious and literary, 
he found opponents not unwilling to envenom their warfare by 
a taunt so ready to their hands. 

At four years of age Erasmus was living with his mother at 
Gouda where he attended a school kept by Peter Winckel, 
afterwards his guardian. Later we find him entered as a pupil 
in the Cathedral Choir School at Utrecht. When nine years 
old he was taken by Margaret to Deventer where he attended the 
famous school attached to the Church of St Lebuin, of which 
Alexander Hegius^ was the head-master, and Sintheim, a scholar 
of distinction, an assistant. The Deventer school was not one 
of the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life ; nor was 
Hegius a member of the Order, though certain of his assistants 
probably were. The school had great repute in the Low 
Countries and in the Rhine-land, and at this period contained 
possibly six hundred pupils. We cannot trace any definitely 
humanist note in the instruction of the junior classes. Erasmus 
in later years complained bitterly both of the teaching and 

^ Hegius went to Deventer school in 1465 and died, still head-master, in 
1498. Nicholls, p. 17. 

Erasmus at Deventer 

of the books employed, as well as of the brutality of the 
discipline'. It is difficult not to feel that, like Locke at 
Westminster, Erasmus derived from Deventer life-long impres- 
sions of profitless and unhappy experiences of his school days. 
Hegius, probably, had but little share in his education, for 
Erasmus left the school in 1480, before he had reached the 
higher classes. But he tells us that he there saw that much 
greater scholar Rudolphus Agricola, who on his return from 
Italy in that year was staying at Deventer, where he visited the 
school and perhaps took an occasional part in the teaching. 
We may safely infer that the man from whom Erasmus learnt 
most was Sintheim, whose repute for learning and for skill in 
teaching survived in North Germany for half a century. We are 
told that Hegius and Sintheim were men of true humanist 
instincts and represented the wider educational aims and more 
intelligent methods which the Italian masters had set forth in 
the famous schools of Mantua and Ferrara. But we gather 
from Erasmus' recollections that Deventer exemplifies once 
more the gulf which in the actual working of a school separates 
ideals from practice. The "love for sound learning" has not 
always proved to be readily translateable into terms of class- 
work, instruction and exercises. Hegius and Sintheim were 
men of scholarship ; but their assistants, the text-books, the 
range of possible subjects, the available methods of instruction, 
were inevitably those of the time. So we find Erasmus as 
he looks back upon his school days writing : " Deventer 
was a school still in the age of barbarism. We had the 
Pater rneus (joint declension of noun and adjective) and the 
tenses dictated to us for learning by heart ; the accidence of 
Ebrardus Graecista and the ridiculous verses of John Garland 
were read aloud. From Hegius and Sintheim the school drew 
some savour of true Letters : and so by contact with boys in 
Sintheim's class I got glimpses of higher things. Hegius him- 
self gave on rare occasions lessons to classes grouped together." 
^ Op. i. 514 F. Infra, p. 205 seqq. 

I 2 

Life at Bois-le-Duc. 

In the tract De Pueris we find allusions of the same 
kind, which relate, we cannot doubt, to his own school 
experiences. Erasmus admits that at Deventer he imbibed a 
strong taste for learning, though with the qualification that he 
could only indulge it by stealth, and in spite of, rather than by 
the aid of, his masters. It is perhaps wise not to take this 
reservation very literally. 

In the autumn of 1480 Erasmus had reached the third 
class, "Tertia" (the eighth, Octava, being the lowest), when he 
lost both father and mother within a few months of each other. 
He was thereupon taken from Deventer to be entered at the 
school of the Collationary Brothers at Bois-le-Duc. He left 
Deventer a boy of fourteen, a studious youth, probably of poor 
physique, and shrinking from too intimate converse with other 
boys, with whom he had little in common and in whose hands 
the knowledge of the shadow resting on his home-life was an 
inevitable instrument of torture. Yet the change to Bois-le-Duc 
was by no means for the better if we are to accept the criticism 
which Erasmus at a later period recorded upon the school of 
the Brethren. We must, however, remember that Erasmus 
cannot be treated as a judicial witness in respect of the period 
which followed the death of his mother in 1480. It has 
generally been assumed' that his entry upon the monastic 
life and his subsequent ordination were steps forced upon him 
by the self-seeking action of his guardian ; that a chain of 
circumstances was deliberately forged to fetter him ; that he 
was cajoled into accepting a decision from which there was no 
escape. It is enough to say here that a candid examination 
of all the evidence we can collect from Erasmus' own writings 
which date from that period leads his biographers to a different 
conclusion. His reminiscences, recorded at a much later 
period, upon which the version usually current is based, are 

^ This not unnatural interpretation of the references made by Erasmus 
to his early life is found in every biography except in those of Emerton and 
NichoUs. But the facts seem to be as they are stated above. 

Erasmus at Stein 

so evidently coloured by subsequent experiences and reflections 
that we cannot accept them as a sincere account of the actual 
facts. The boarding school of the Brethren of the Common 
Life at Bois-le-Duc was, he asserts, "a very seed-bed of 
monkery," and as a place of education worthless. It is, of 
course, possible that this and other Houses of the Brethren 
had declined from the high standard of religious life and of 
intellectual interests which marked them at Deventer, Liege 
and elsewhere. We have no contemporary evidence of any 
kind to guide us to a judgment of the level of studies or of 
spiritual fervour of this particular monastery. Erasmus un- 
doubtedly inveighed all his life long against monastic schools 
for boys; his famous dictum^ — "schola sit publica aut nulla" 
— is certainly aimed at the schools kept by the monastic orders. 
It is probable, also, that the monastic career was presented by 
his schoolmasters to the shrinking, studious boy, of no fortune, 
no prospects, of weakly constitution, and of discredited origin, 
in its best light. To the friends of the young Erasmus it might 
well seem without insincerity a suitable calling. And there is 
reasonable ground for believing that to Erasmus himself his 
choice proved for some years at least sufficiently congenial. 

He remained in the school until the close of 1482 or a 
little later. His guardians, he tells us in 15 15, vied with the 
Brethren in bringing moral pressure to bear upon their charge. 
He was then between 16 and 17 years of age, and allured by 
the promise of unrestricted opportunities of study he yielded, 
and in 1483 entered as a novice the Augustinian monastery 
of Emmaus at Stein near Gouda. This was his home for the 
next ten years ; here in due course he made full profession, and 
took the vows; here finally in 1492 he was ordained priest. 
Erasmus' career was thus finally determined. 

The period of his residence at Stein is of no little signi- 
ficance as a stage in the development of Erasmus as a man 
of Letters. It is clear that he found there some attractive 
* De Pueris, etc., i. 504 C Infra, p. 204. 

Life at Stein, 1483 — 93 

companionship and much tranquil leisure for scholarly reading. 
He wrote, we may suppose for his own amusement, certain 
Latin poems that have been preserved. There are amongst 
them a few religious poems, in sapphics ; satires in the Horatian 
manner ; elegiacs after TibuUus. But three prose works are of 
more importance in revealing the trend of his interests. The 
first, written when he was 18, is an Epitome of the Elegantiae 
Linguae Latinae of Laurentius Valla\ the great Italian scholar, 
the contemporary of Vittorino and Poggio, to whom later 
humanists looked up with justice as the chief restorer of 
Latinity. This compendium was circulated in MS. and found 
its way into the hands of students in distant centres of learning. 
Erasmus is unwearied at this time in urging upon his corre- 
spondents the solid worth of Valla's work, in spite of the known 
antipathy of churchmen to his memory. We have in the second 
place two slighter compositions, rhetorical in treatment yet 
none the less expressing genuine conviction on the part of the 
writer, a piece in denunciation of war, always a favourite theme 
of Erasmus, and an oration in grateful memory of a lady who 
had befriended his orphanhood. Thirdly, he has left a formal 
epistle De Contemptu Mundi (i486) in which with evident 
sincerity he sets forth the attractions of the monastic life, in a 
fashion which confirms that general spirit of content with his 
quietist career which breathes through all the letters of this 
period which have survived. 

It is not an easy problem to appraise at their true value the 
complaints which Erasmus, at a much later date, levelled against 
destiny in making him a monk. Two things seem clear : the first 
is that he has left no contemporary record of his discontent ; 
the second, that his bent to literature and scholarship was 
fostered by the leisure of the ten years spent at Stein, as it 
could hardly have been by any other mode of life. In 1493 
Erasmus had gained repute enough to have become known to 

^ On Valla's contribution to scholarship see p. 104 : and on Erasmus' 
early respect for his achievements, Op. iii. i c (Nicholls, p. 72). 

Erasmus at Paris 

the Bishop of Cambrai, whose service he now entered. This 
appointment enabled him to gain dispensation from residence 
in the monastery, whereupon the Bishop sent him to the Uni- 
versity of Paris, where he resided at the College de Montaigu 
as a student in Theology. The absorbing interests of the 
University were scholastic Divinity and Logic. Grammar was 
treated mainly as a branch of Dialectic. The New Learning 
was but feebly represented. Robert Gaguin was perhaps the 
best scholar teaching regularly in the University. His chief 
performance is a Latin history of France, a poor humanist 
history of the imitative sort, on the model of the histories — 
themselves lifeless copies of Livy — of Bruni and Poggio. 
Erasmus wrote a laudatory letter to the writer on seeing the 
work in manuscript. It was thought good enough to print as 
a prefatory epistle (Sept. 1495) to the work. This letter 
attracted the notice of certain readers, amongst whom was 
Colet, who reminded Erasmus of this occaCsion of his first 
acquaintance with his name. 

Erasmus, although in the faculty of Theology, devoted 
himself chiefly to the classics, and made a beginning with 
Greek. In this he was almost wholly self-taught, for Greek 
literature had attracted as yet very few students outside Italy, 
He seems to have preached at the Augustinian Abbey Church 
of Ste-Genevieve. He was already acquiring that distaste for 
scholastic learning, particularly as represented in Scotus, and -^ 
in the mediaeval grammarians, which he so loudly expressed as 
his own classical feeling became more defined. But it is 
probable that leave of absence from the monastery was at first 
conditional upon the devotion of a fixed proportion of time to 
the study of Theology. This will explain why Erasmus, be- 
coming resentful of restraint upon his freedom, writes with 
an accent of self-pity of this enforced occupation with the 
mediaevalists. He was groping his way to the standpoint of 
historical divinity and of plain literary method in exegesis, 
which was characteristic of his maturity. Meantime he earned 

8 Erasmus at Paris 

his living as a teacher of Latin, and became recognised as one 
of the ablest scholars in residence. About 1495 he came into 
contact with English students, and transferred his quarters to 
the boarding-house in which certain young Englishmen of 
position lived for purposes of study. Amongst them was 
Lord Mountjoy, a young man of eighteen, who proved one 
of Erasmus' most forbearing patrons. Erasmus was fortunate 
in his English pupils, to whom he was indebted for much con- 
sideration 'at the time, and for valuable interest in subsequent 
years. Apart from teaching, Erasmus was a most industrious 
student, and in spite of a severe illness contracted through the 
unhealthiness of his surroundings— Paris was noted for its ague 
and fever— he was absorbed in Latin scholarship. He wrote a 
little handbook on epistolary composition, but we have no other 
published work from his pen at this period. 

Erasmus was a poor man, with no resources beyond his 
earnings as a teacher. He had the tastes and the necessities 
of a scholar, conscious of considerable powers but at the same 
time of a bodily condition which rendered him dependent on 
a certain standard of comfort. He began to cast about for the 
means of support sanctioned by the custom of the age among 
men of learning. He wanted a patron, liberal, but not ex- 
acting. To the scholar of the Renaissance generosity lost all 
its grace if accompanied by expectation of definite work in 
return. The patron should be content with the consciousness 
that it had been permitted him to come to the aid of genius. 
There is indeed nothing pecuHar to Erasmus or to his age in 
this attitude. A certain Lady of Veer was approached through 
a friend in the interests of Erasmus. Here was a poor scholar 
of great promise anxious to establish his position by acquiring 
the degree of Doctor; desirous also of enlarging his attain- 
ments by a sojourn in Italy ; a man of such ability might be 
counted on to reflect renown upon an enlightened patroness. 
As all his biographers have admitted, the correspondence of 
Erasmus with his ally who had the ear of the lady — who 

Scholars and Patrons 

yielded not very adequately to persuasion — leaves an un- 
pleasant savour. Irritable self-conceit, shameless importunity, 
perfect indifference to the person importuned, are all in 
evidence ; it is hard to banish a sense of contempt for a 
scholar who could play so sordid a part. 

Yet we must remember that Erasmus was by profession a 
scholar, at a time when scholars had yet, in Western Europe 
at least, to establish their claim to professional status and 
respect. His was a career in which no external standards of 
capacity were so far understood or accorded recognition. The 
only measure of desert was the scholar's own claim : he was 
above criticism, for no one but another scholar could test his 
excellence. Hence the man of Letters in the earlier days of 
the New Learning was apt to be abnormally sensitive, resenting 
a judgment upon himself which was less flattering than his 
own, ever suspicious of lack of appreciation, and filled with a 
sense of his own serious importance. It was an inevitable 
stage in the evolution of the scholar's position in the new 
society. The pedant or the charlatan became in time dis- 
tinguishable by consent from the man of real power, as 
standards of merit which were readily understood were slowly 
formulated with the increasing security of learning. This 
irritable self-consciousness may be compared with that of the 
modern actor, or, less aptly, with that of the prophet of a new 
school in art or music, where, for lack of accepted canons of 
excellence, criticism is perforce individual and provisional. We 
understand the sensitiveness of the artist and forgive him if he 
likes his own criticism best. As regards importunity, Erasmus 
was conscientiously assured that he had it in his power to add 
something to the learning of his age. He knew, too, as we 
also know, that in his begging neither avarice nor ambition of 
place had part or lot. We can sum up the matter by saying 
that if Erasmus did not rise above the fashion of his day and 
the precedents of his class, in the larger view his motives were 
not wholly unworthy. It proved of no slight import to the 

lo First Visit to England, 1499 

world that Erasmus should, with whatever importunities, gain 
what he needed to go on with his studies. 

In the middle of 1499 Erasmus left Paris to accompany 
Lord Mountjoy to England. This was the first of several 
visits to this country and left behind it on the mind of the 
traveller a most grateful impression. He was welcomed as 
one of themselves by the group of scholars, with Colet at their 
head, which centred at Oxford; and in London he was at 
home with More and Warham. It was, during this winter of 
1499, that Erasmus laid the foundation of that affectionate 
intimacy which united him to More and Colet until their 
deaths. Undoubtedly his intercourse with these two kindred 
minds strengthened in Erasmus the determination to devote 
himself to classical study. Colet urged him further to utilise 
his attainments in the service of historical theology : and from 
this time we find frequent reference to such a purpose in the 
correspondence of Erasmus. Colet, indeed, attracted all that 
was best in him ; and the peculiar intellectual habit of the 
Oxford scholar — his historical and objective view of knowledge 
— made warm appeal to Erasmus' own literary and scholarly 
instinct. He was thus able to appreciate to the full the 
method upon which Colet treated the Pauline Epistles, the 
subject upon which^he was at that period specially engaged. 
It is not surprising that he tried to secure Erasmus for Oxford, 
as a co-worker in the cause which he had so closely at heart. 
But Erasmus became at once suspicious of an attempt to 
fetter his liberty. Indefatigable now and always as a student 
he would only work in absolute freedom. His aims must be 
of his own choice ; he would pursue them where and how his 
own waywardness should determine. To overlook this charac- 
teristic is to misunderstand the man : with him this passion for 
independence was thoroughly genuine and had in it nothing of 
mere self-conceit. It is evident from the letters which he ad- 
dressed to Colet before leaving England that he was still 
uncertain whither his intellectual tastes would lead him. He 

The Study of Greek 1 1 

did not wish the question to be pre-judged by any one else, 
not even by Colet. That there existed an intimate relation 
between sound (i.e. classical) literature and sound {i.e. pre- 
scholastic) divinity he was already assured. But it was still 
possible that his dominant interest might lie in the ancient 
literatures. And in any case it was clear to him that his 
equipment in learning was wholly inadequate to the task of 
attacking historical divinity as a scholar should. He had 
already resolved that "a little more knowledge and a little 
more power of expressing it " were the pre-requisites of any 
service which he could render to the world. Whether while at 
Oxford he spent any time upon Greek we do not know, nor 
whether he saw Grocyn and Linacre, the pioneers there of the 
New Learning. But before the end of 1499 he had deter- 
mined to return to Paris. 

In February of the following year he was at work there, 
absorbed in the classics but especially in Greek. " My Greek 
studies are almost too much for my courage, while I have not 
the means of purchasing books nor the help of a master." 
Throughout the spring he was engaged upon the first collection 
of the Adagia, a compilation of proverbs, maxims and witty 
utterances drawn from classical authors. It appeared in June 
1500 with a dedication to Lord Mountjoy, to whom Erasmus 
was doubtless indebted for timely help at the period. The 
book gave evidence of a wide range of reading. His know- 
ledge of Greek was in spite of difficulties rapidly increasing. 
About this date he begins to quote it in his letters. He 
records that he is at work upon Homer " refreshed and fed by 
the very sight of his words even when I cannot always under- 
stand him." Driven from Paris by the plague he carried off 
his books to Orleans, or St Omer, but longed to find himself 
again at the University where alone books and a teacher were 
to be had. When he had attained to some moderate com- 
petency in Greek, " without which the amplest erudition in 
Latin is imperfect'," he will devote himself entirely to sacred 
^ iii. 968 D. Infra, p. 135. 

12 Erasmus at Louvain 

literature. To earn money he edited the De Officiis of Cicero. 
By this date (1501) Erasmus had acquired a notable power of 
expression in Latin; both in speech and in writing : and by his 
industry and his acute observation he had accumulated a store 
of knowledge upon the material of the language, which was 
surpassed perhaps by his great predecessor, Valla, alone. He 
was laying the foundation for his book De Copia Verborum ei 
Rerum, the Similia and an enlarged Adagia. For all that 
he insists that " he has almost deserted the Latin Muse for the 
Greek," and that he " would pawn his coat for a codex of an 
author whom he had not yet read." He began to work at 
Euripides and Isocrates in July 1 501, and is revelling in his hardly 
won powers of construing. He tried to compile a commentary 
on the Epistle to the Romans, but gave up the task for lack of 
sufficient knowledge of the original. At this time, too, we 
meet with a half-formed project of an edition of the Letters of 
St Jerome. But in such a task "how large a space must be 
filled by comment upon the literature, the antiquities and the 
history of the Greeks \" 

In 1502 Erasmus removed to Louvain. His travels during 
the years 1499- 15 05 throw an interesting light upon one or 
two aspects of the life of the time. We perceive for instance 
the real meaning of the constant visitations of the plague, 
which year after year broke up Universities even in so im- 
portant a city as Paris, bringing in its train risks and losses of 
most serious import. Next, the habit of travel in spite of the 
time and expense involved. Erasmus is constantly on the 
move. Crossing the Alps is no doubt a grave and costly 
venture, but a scholar regarded a visit to England, Germany, 
Switzerland more lightly than he did a century ago. 

At Louvain, Erasmus was at once pressed to accept the 
chair of Rhetoric in the University, an offer which with equal 
promptitude he declined. He had no intention of staying 
long at Louvain. So far as the scarcity of texts would permit 
he was absorbed in Greek. He began to prepare versions from 
^ iii. 67 D (NichoUs, p. 289). 

His Literary Work 13 

Lucian and from Euripides, partly by way of earning money 
from patrons, partly to supply a need of students. We must 
remember the extreme scarcity of Greek MSS. and of printed 
editions during the period preceding the activity of the Aldine 
Press and the rival houses, of the Giunta, Gryphius and 
Plantin. There was as yet no printer of Greek texts out of 
Italy : and Greek copyists were rare. Aldus published the 
Dialogues of Lucian in 1504 : Erasmus spent much of his time 
translating from this text. It is not difficult to imagine that 
Lucian's thrusts at the philosophers of his day appealed 
peculiarly to Erasmus, who had begun to expend his sarcasms 
upon the schoolmen. There was, too, much in common 
between Lucian and his translator in the humour of their 
outlook upon life and the overflowing wit with which they 
told what they saw. These months devoted to the Dialogues 
bore other fruit than the volume of translations of 1506: 
they rendered possible the Praise of Folly five or six years 

Once more in Paris in 1505, Erasmus resumes communi- 
cations with his English friends, especially with Colet, now 
Dean of St Paul's. He sent him one or two of his books in . 
MS., amongst which was the Enchiridion, a simply written 
manual of Christian conduct, but not the Lucian. The work 
upon which he was particularly engaged was a new find of 
which he was very proud, a volume of Annotations on the New ^ 
Testament by Valla, the first attempt to apply the method of '^ 
linguistic criticism to Scripture^ To Erasmus such a line of 
enquiry was thoroughly congenial, falling in, as it did, with his 
conviction of the essential importance of the literary point of 
view in the study of all ancient documents. As soon as this 
book was issued from the press (April 1505) Erasmus left 

^ The aim of Valla's Notes was to correct errors in the Vulgate by 
reference to the original Greek. In these Notes we may see the first 
suggestion of the edition of the Greek Testament with its version and notes 
which Erasmus published in 1516. 

14 Second Visii to England, 1505 — 6. 

Paris for another visit to London, on the invitation of Lord 

No city in Europe, except Rome, possessed such attraction 
for Erasmus as London then held out, in the presence there 
of the well-known group of English scholars, with Colet at 
their head. Linacre, Grocyn, More and Warham were either 
in the capital or close at hand. Erasmus it seems looked to 
receive a sinecure benefice at the hand of the Archbishop. It 
is significant that the method of approach to this desirable end 
was the presentation of a version from Lucian to Bishop Fox 
and a translation of the Hecuba to Warham. During this 
English visit the University of Cambridge passed a Grace 
enabling Erasmus to take the degree of Doctor of Divinity, 
but it is certain that he did not avail himself of it. It is 
probable that he did not journey either to Oxford or Cam- 
bridge during the year that he remained in this country. The 
time seems to have been spent in or near London, much of it 
in company with More, who joined his guest in translating 
Lucian. More's first published work is contained in the 
volume of the Dialogues in Latin dress published at Paris 
by Badius in 1506. Erasmus left England in May of that 
year to fulfil a project conceived more than ten years 

The position of Erasmus in the world of Letters was 
already assured. In Louvain, Paris or London, wherever 
indeed the new light had won its way, his repute was above 
question. He had undoubtedly command of the best Latin 
style of his time out of Italy. He was widely read in Roman 
literature, classical and patristic. Men of position in affairs, 
in scholarship and in the Church came to him as a friend and 
adviser. It rested with himself alone to gain fame as a great 
Teacher in any seat of learning in Europe. But Erasmus 
knew how much more he had yet to know before he could put 
forward any such claim. It was borne in upon him with 
increasing force that he must first make himself known to the 

The Italian Journey, 1506 15 

Italian scholars and sit at the feet of the Greek teachers who 
even yet had not crossed the Alps. 

He took with him two pupils and their English tutor, and 
in July 1506 was well on his way by Paris, Lyons and Savoy. 
It is characteristic of Erasmus that finding himself for the first 
time amidst the most striking scenery in Europe he left no 
word which conveys the impressions which it made upon him. 
Instead we have a classical lucubration on Old Age, composed, 
we are told, to while away the tedium of the August days in 
the High Alps. Only once, in the very last years of his life, 
did Erasmus record the sensations evoked by great scenery, 
when the view from the Lake of Constance struck his fancy. 

At Turin' he received the degree of Doctor of Theology, 
and pressed on, early in September, to Bologna. Thence in 
November he crossed the Apennines to Florence. We turn 
hopefully to his correspondence. But what do we find ? Not 
a word which reveals that he was under the spell of the beauty 
of the city, that he recognises the dignity of its civic life, the 
distinction of its architecture and art. He gives us no clue, 
moreover, to any perception of the living significance of 
Florence in the history of learning. We may perhaps under- 
stand that Erasmus might have little feeling for the Heiterkeit 
of the Italian spirit, and less for the art which expressed it. 
But as a humanist he knew himself to be on classic ground, 
where Chrysoloras had taught Greek first in Western Europe, 
where the great manuscript treasures had been collected, the 
city of Poggio, of Ficino, of Poliziano. Erasmus made no 
acquaintances ; he translated more Lucian, and grumbled at 
his lot. It was a principle with him to refuse to learn or even 
to recognise vernacular languages. Thus he found himself cut 
off from intercourse in a society proud of its Tuscan speech. 
" You speak to a deaf man," he said to Ruccellai, who pressed 

^ Upon the Italian journey the indispensable authority is P. Nolhac, 
£rasvie en Italic. 

1 6 Erasmus in Italy 

his Italian upon him : and in Italian as in English he remained 
dumb to the end. 

In December Erasmus was again in Bologna, where he was 
an amazed spectator of the entry of Julius II, a victorious 
general taking possession of a vanquished city. He now gave 
up the use of the monastic dress, thus decisively refusing to 
be longer identified with the obscurantists of the Church. 
Bologna was favourably circumstanced for Greek studies, and 
in its University Erasmus made the first of those friendships 
which were the charm of his Italian sojourn. The year (1507) 
which he thus spent was of high importance in his intellectual 
development. He had come to Italy, in his own words, chiefly 
for the sake of Greek, and found himself amid a circle of 
noteworthy scholars, with leisure and passable health. 

Towards the end of 1507 he was in correspondence with 
Aldus Manutius, the great printer, respecting a new and 
corrected edition of his versions from Euripides, when he was 
met by an offer that he should transfer himself to Venice and 
there prepare for publication a new and larger collection of 
Adages. At the close of the year Erasmus was installed as a 
member of the Aldine household, his pupils got rid of and he 
himself enjoying what could be had nowhere else in Europe, 
the society of a community of scholars and craftsmen using 
Greek as their living language. His position in the circle is 
not very clear. He acted in some capacity as adviser and as 
assistant to Aldus ; but his time must have been chiefly 
absorbed by the compilation of the Adagia, which by aid of 
friends and of books became a wholly new work. Amongst 
the scholars whom from time to time he may have seen almost 
daily were John Lascaris, Marcus Musurus and Urban of 
Botzen, all Greek scholars of the first rank, and engaged in 
editorial work for Aldus. It is indeed difficult to overstate the 
debt due from Erasmus to Aldus at this critical stage of his 
career. Thanks to his friendship Erasmus had gained ex- 
ceptional facility in Greek, and had definitely entered the 

Erasmus in Rome, 1509 17 

inner circle of Greek scholars. He had formed profitable 
relations with the greatest publisher of his age, the man who 
in a true sense rendered Greek learning possible to Western 
communities. In his preface to the Adagia and in the actual 
text of the work Erasmus records his immense obligation to 
Aldus and to his colleagues in searching for MSS. for purposes 
of the work and in diligent help in interpretation. But it 
irked Erasmus to feel such obligations ; some years later he 
wrote a spiteful dialogue (the Colloquy upon Sordid Wealth) 
in abuse of Asulanus, the father-in-law of Aldus and manager 
of his household. The abuse is vented upon the parsimony of 
the Aldine table ; but the Italian standard of living was pro- 
bably as beneficial to Erasmus as it was novel and unpleasant. 
And in any case we may be certain that he lived there only 
because he chose to do so. One hopes that there may be some 
key to the puzzle which has escaped record. Towards the 
end of the year 1508 as the great Aldine Rhetores Graeci 
was in process of publication — to have a share, however 
slight, in preparing such a work was no slight privilege to 
Erasmus — he left Venice for Padua, where he attended the 
lectures of Musurus and mingled in the learned society of 
the famous University — " locupletissimum optimarum discipli- 
narum emporium," he calls it. He formed a good opinion 
of the integrity and seriousness of the Paduan humanists. 

Erasmus had again taken charge of a pupil, a son of 
James IV of Scotland, the youthful Archbishop of St Andrews. 
Going by Ferrara and Siena he reached Rome on March i, 1509. 
Once more, it would be interesting to find in his letters or 
writings — then or subsequently — traces of some deep impression 
made upon him by the ruins of Rome. But there is, in effect, 
nothing. On the other hand, the dignity of the scholarly society 
in which he at once took his place, was wholly to his liking. 
He did not fail to remark, however, the divorce between learned 
Churchmen and the Christian spirit, which was nowhere more 
noticeable than in the Rome of Julius II. " Rome," he says, 

w. 2 

1 8 Third Visit to England, 1509 

" is nothing but a site strewn with ruins and remains — monu- 
ments of disaster and decay take away the papal See and 

the papal Court — would Rome to-day be more than a name?" 
To Erasmus, full of conviction that the genius of Ancient Rome 
was still the unique force of civilisation, there was no attraction 
in the picturesqueness of its fallen greatness. The libraries of 
Rome were open to him, and Cardinals and Secretaries vied 
with one another in shewing him kindness : though he is, per- 
haps, a little too anxious to impress his northern friends with 
the fact. Raphael was at work in the Vatican, Michelangelo in 
the Sistine Chapel, and Erasmus may well have seen both of 
them there. But in the presence of the glowing noon-day of 
Italian art he remains untouched. Nor do the scenery, the 
light, the colour, the vegetation of the southern land affect him. 
He moves through all these things as a student, an observer 
of human life, seeing much that, apparently, he does not notice, 
yet, perhaps, also acquiring much that he does not overtly 

But when Erasmus hastened north again in the spring of 
1509 to greet the new King Henry of England we know that 
he went out of Italy a different man. He had come into direct 
relations with the princes of the Church, and had watched the 
working of the great ecclesiastical machine, with no enthusiasm 
but without serious moral, repulsion. He had established his 
own status by acquiring an Italian degree. He had entered 
into intimate relations with scholars, editors, and publishers, 
and had been admitted by them to a place in the inner circle 
of European scholarship. He had gained, what he specially 
came to gain, a sound working knowledge of Greek. His new 
edition of the Adagia proved him to be a learned man and 
a versatile student of ancient literature ; but Erasmus was 
now more than that He was almost alone in the gift of 
bringing all he learnt to bear upon his view of human life. 
When he reached England in July, 1509, he brought with 
him not a little of the practicality of a keen-sighted and 

Erasmus at Cambridge, 1510 19 

accomplished man of the world. This too in the main he 
owed to Italy. 

The accession of Henry VIII was regarded, not in England 
only, as an event of the highest importance to humanity. 
" What may we not expect from a prince of so extraordinary — 
almost divine — a character? How like a hero he appears to 
us, with what prudence he bears himself, what love he shows 

for truth and justice, what favour to men of letters If 

you could but see how wild with joy everyone here is... the 

very earth dances, the earth flows with milk and honey 

Our King is ambitious, although not for gold, but for excellence, 
for fame, for immortality!" It is not easy for us to realise 
with what sanguine hopes men regarded the advent of the new 
reign. The culture of Italy, the wealth of Spain, the peaceful 
arts of trade and exploration — were all bound up in the 
accession of the young king. Erasmus was summoned from 
Rome to be the representative of the new learning. It was in 
the same year that Colet worked out his scheme for a great 
school of St Paul's. In this year also the conflict, significant 
of a far fiercer struggle, which raged around the person of 
Reuchlin, was stirred up in Germany. 

Erasmus found a home at Cambridge, where in 15 10 he 
was made Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, and took up 
his residence at Queens' College. He seems also to have 
done a little teaching, public and private, in Greek ; though his 
success in enlisting interest in the subject was disappointingly 
small. Apart from this far from exacting occupation Erasmus 
worked hard during the five years he spent in England. First 
of all, soon after his arrival he prepared and sent to the Press 
from More's house in London, the Moriae Encomium or Praise 
of Folly (1509), that extraordinary satire upon the life of his 
day which he had conceived and partly worked out during 
his recent journeys across Europe. The monk, the scholastic 
theologian, the courtier, the dominant types of mankind in 
Erasmus' immediate world, are, especially, depicted with keen 

20 His Writings upon Education 

insight and biting sarcasm. Like almost everything that 
Erasmus wrote, it was a sermon for the times, and a potent 
solvent of accepted stupidity and pretence. No book of 
Erasmus had so instant recognition, such striking effect on 
opinion. Here was a man who not only knew his books, but 
knew his world not less. 

Apart from the Praise of Folly, the literary activity of 
Erasmus lay mainly in two different directions. In the first 
place he was stimulated by Colet's interest in his new school 
to a definite concern in education. For four years he was in 
constant communication with the Dean, guiding him in choice 
of books and men. Certain important contributions to the 
work of teaching were made by Erasmus immediately for 
Colet's behoof. We need only mention here the tract De 
Ratione Studii (of which a version is given in the present 
volume), which he sent to Colet in 1511. It is based perhaps 
upon the recollection of his own experience of teaching in 
Paris and Italy. The work on Latin composition, which he 
called after a phrase of Quintilian De Copia Rerum et 
Verborum, was issued in the same year. This is a very re- 
markable storehouse of material for rhetorical uses, the product 
of five-and-twenty years of observation of the style, usages, 
figures, and sentence-forms of the classical authors. The 
work deserves much more careful attention than has been 
devoted to it during the past two hundred years, but the great 
Latinists of the i6th and 17th centuries owed to it the same 
debt that Erasmus, Melanchthon, and Budaeus admitted as 
due from themselves to Valla. Erasmus issued also a small 
metrical compendium of rules of conduct known by the name 
of the Cato pro Pueris or Disticha Catonis, printed by Wynkyn 
de Worde in 15 13. The Concio de Puero Jesu, an Oration in 
honour of the Child Jesus, was composed for recitation by the 
scholars of St Paul's. Erasmus was, like Colet, already deeply 
considering the right methods of training little children and 
the provision of sound aids to teaching rudiments. Thus in 

His Writings upon Education 21 

15 13 at the request of William Lily, the High Master of the 
school, he revised the little text-book of elementary Latin 
syntax, intended to supplement the Accidence which had ap- 
peared a year or two before under Lily's own name. This went 
through a large number of editions in Erasmus' lifetime ; the 
Giunta and Aldine Presses, printers at Cracow, at Deventer, 
Vienna, Paris, poured editions on to the market. It survives 
in a greatly altered form in the Eton Latin Grammar of our 
own day. The usual title of the book in the i6th century 
was De Construdione octo Partium Orattonts Libellus. The 
Institutum Hominis C/irisiiani, or the Elements of Christian 
Training, is a Latin metrical version of the greater part of 
Colet's Cathecyzon, or rudiments of religion, a little manual 
of faith and conduct, written in simple direct language, which 
he set forth for use in his school of St Paul's. We may 
mention two other products of the Cambridge period : the 
Latin version of Theodore Gaza's Greek Grammar, which 
we know that Erasmus used at Cambridge, and which was 
published in Basel ( 1 5 1 6) a few months after he left England. 
To Henry VHI he dedicated (15 12) a translation of a treatise 
of Plutarch (from the Moralia) upon the Distinction between 
a Flatterer and a Friend; and he completed another from the 
same source : On the Art of keeping oneself in Health. Both 
had a certain educational reference. Erasmus, it is evident, 
revealed at this time a special interest in schools and in- 
struction. His residence at Cambridge, therefore, with its 
opportunities for intercourse with Colet, is particularly im- 
portant from the p>oint of view of the present study of Erasmus 
in relation to the progress of educational thought and practice. 
Cambridge, moreover, enabled Erasmus to bring towards 
completion two great enterprises in the field which he hence- 
forward claimed to be peculiarly his own, that of the application 
of scholarship to historical Christianity. I refer to the edition 
of the Letters of Jerome, and the text of the Greek Testament. 
The former had been for twenty years the subject to which 

2 2 Eras7nus and the Greek Testament 

Erasmus had always turned with keen interest. Jerome repre- 
sented for Erasmus all that was most learned, sober, eloquent 
in Christian theology. To produce an edition worthy of the 
great Latin Father was an ever-present ambition. Thus on 
hearing that the printing-house of Froben, at Basel, successor 
to the great Amerbach, was ready to undertake at their own 
cost the issue of this favourite child of his scholarship, Erasmus 
left England (15 14) and made his way thither. 

Between 15 14 and 15 17 Erasmus can scarcely be said to 
have had a settled home. The true centre of his interests lay 
in Basel, where from 1515 onwards Froben and his partners 
were engaged not only upon the two great works just mentioned, 
but upon several others from Erasmus' pen. In 1515 the 
Epistolae Obscuroruni Virorum appeared in Germany. They 
were, naturally enough, ascribed to the author of the Moriae 
Encomium, and the whilom translator of Lucian : though 
Erasmus was anxious to disown any share in this famous jeu 
d'esprit, he admits that he never laughed at anything so help- 
lessly in his life. But he was just now writing the dedication 
of his two great works to Leo X and Warham, and outwardly 
was in a serious mood. The Greek Testament, with all its 
importance as the Editio Princeps of the original text, is still 
far from being a scholarly recension. Textual criticism of 
Greek authors was still in an embryo stage. Manuscript 
sources were very imperfectly known, and the particular codices 
used by Erasmus were not of importance as authorities. The 
importance of the edition lies in the motive and method which 
it reveals. To go back to the origins, — that was invariably 
Erasmus' principle : to get behind the gloss of the grammarian 
to the plain text of the author, behind the gloss of the dialectic 
theologian to the actual teaching of the apostolic age. To be 
afraid of facts was superstition and the denial of the prerogative 
of human reason. In relation to this general principle we are 
concerned indirectly, at least, with the attitude of Erasmus to 
the monuments of historical divinity. 

The ' Colloquies ' 2 3 

Part of the period to which reference has just been made 
(15 1 5-1 5 19) was spent at Louvain with visits to London and 
Brussels. Francis I had in 15 15 ascended the French throne, 
amid such hopes as had been stirred in England a few years 
ago. The great Budaeus wrote from Paris to Erasmus offering 
him, apparently on the new king's behalf, a position of dis- 
tinction and a rich benefice. This offer came to nothing ; but 
Erasmus accepted (15 16) a sinecure post as Counsellor to 
Charles I of Spain, who became later the Emperor Charles V. 
Whereupon Erasmus indited for his behoof the Institutio 
Principis Chris tiaiit, a tract treating of T/ie Duties of Kingship. 
The work has no very great interest in relation to education in 
general, but in spite of its inevitably, but reasonably, laudatory 
tone, it expresses clearly the views which Erasmus and More 
had in common on government, peace, and the functions of a 
true king. It was held in high esteem by a man of so practical 
temper as Sir Thomas Elyot, who urges that it should be " as 
familiar alway with gentlemen at all times and in every age as 
was Homer with the great King Alexander or Xenophon with 
Scipio.... There never was book written in Latin that, in so 
little a portion, contained of sentence, eloquence, and virtuous 
exhortation a more compendious abundance." In the same 
year, 15 16, Froben published the famous collection of dia- 
logues on incidents of daily life and intercourse known as the 
Colloquies under the title of Colloquiorum Formulae. They 
had been written by Erasmus from time to time as exercises in 
the teaching of conversational Latin. Some of them date 
back to the days of his tutoring work in Paris twenty years 
previously. In their definitive form in the Basel edition of 
1523 they contain Erasmus' riper views on a wide range of 
topics ; and not a few are directly concerned with his ideas on 
training and instruction. The whole volume, however, is 
evidence of Erasmus' method of uniting scholarship with 
didactic purpose : what was begun as an aid to composition, 
has developed into a manual of comment on Hfe and conduct. 

24 Louvain 

It was full of satire on obscurantism in the fields of religion 
and knowledge, and in the changed atmosphere induced by 
the Lutheran conflict it roused the suspicion of the authorities. 
The condemation of the Colloquia by the University of Paris, 
as undermining to the Faith, led to its almost universal 
adoption as a school book in schools influenced by the 
Reform. The result was that no book of Erasmus, nor even 
the Moria, had so wide a vogue. It was pirated in every 
country in Europe. 

In 15 17 Erasmus was busily engaged in advising upon the 
organisation of the new Collegium Trilingue at Louvain, a 
school or college intended to establish liberal learning upon an 
assured footing. Hebrew, Greek and Latin formed the cur- 
riculum, and scholars of the highest repute were sought for it. 
It is interesting to note the collocation of the three languages. 
This had as a fact little or no theological significance. It was 
due much more to the conception of the philological importance 
of Hebrew as the primitive language, and of the light which 
the study of it might throw upon the classical tongues. 
Erasmus clearly found much to attract him in Louvain at this 
time. But he met the offer of a chair in the new Collegium 
with a prompt refusal ; no doubt it was hardly expected that he 
would accept even a titular responsibility, much as he enjoyed 
giving advice on the election of the professors and framing the 
schemes of study. In 15 19 he determined to settle in Louvain 
amongst friends so congenial to his pursuits. For the Univer- 
sity city was a centre of keen intellectual life, well placed for 
meeting scholars, and not less so for visits to France, England 
or the Rhinelands. Moreover it contained several printers of 
repute, so that about this time we find Erasmus issuing many 
editions of his smaller works from Louvain. And in spite of 
piracies his income from publishers must have been con- 

The stirrings of the German revolt from Rome opened a 
new chapter in the career of Erasmus. His attitude to the 

Beginnings of the Reform 25 

earlier controversies of the Reformation has been frequently 
and elaborately argued, and only indirectly concerns us here. 
This at least must be said. The Lutheran conflict brought 
Erasmus much anxiety and no little misfortune during his life. 
But it is still more certain that it did equal injury to his fame 
after death, in that it has thrown his master-aims and activity 
into wrong perspective in the eyes of his critics and bio- 
graphers. Erasmus was not a Dogmatist, still less an eccle- 
siastic or politician, least of all a fighting partisan. He was a 
scholar, a teacher preparing well-sifted authorities foi" others to 
make such use of as the changing needs of the times might 
demand. Unfortunately for himself he had a keen scent for 
self-deception in loudly vocal people, and a pretty trick of style 
in exposing it. But it is true to say that the only region in 
which he had any thought-out system to offer for guidance of 
a practical world was the region of Latin scholarship and 
of education. And Erasmus knew it. His shrinking from 
partisan declarations was but the recognition of the fact that 
both in theological dialectic and in ecclesiastico-political fight- 
ing, the two dominant sides of the Lutheran struggle, he was 
no expert, and had neither the gifts nor inclinations to become 
one. So far as ideals went, Lutheran separatism was utterly 
distasteful to him. He was for his years an old man, of un- 
certain health ; but Erasmus can only be called a coward by 
those to whom partisanship is the one note of courage. 

Louvain did not escape the clouds and thunder of the 
"great Day of the Lord." Always prone to a restless desire 
for change, Erasmus persuaded himself that he must go in 
search of a quieter atmosphere, where pronouncements on the 
controversy would not be expected of him. This haven of 
peace he decided that he would best find at Basel under the 
shelter of the Frobenhaus. There in the spring of 1522 he 
was welcomed by his old friends, and there he installed himself 
in the home where he spent the happiest period of his later 
life. He had now entered upon the last stage of his vigorous 

26 Erasmus and Luther 

and productive career. The Lutheran trouble, indeed, pursued 
him in spite of his flight from it. He had hoped great things 
from the election of Adrian VI (1522) as successor to Leo X. 
For the Archbishop of Utrecht, though as a Pope he was a 
failure, was a man of very different type to the Borgia, the 
Rovere, and the Medici. Erasmus had known him well and 
respected him for his sincere life and his solid intellectual gifts. 
Through Adrian he was led to take an overt part in the 
pamphlet warfare now raging. His tract on Free Will set out 
with excellent temper his view of human nature in relation to 
the Divine Will. As we should expect, he is not very forcible 
in taking up a controversial position ; he sees, here as else- 
where, both sides of the question. But he believed, and had 
always believed, that the human spirit is by creation not merely 
capable of, but prone to, a rational and wholesome activity. 
His spiritual analysis was never deep : Plutarchian, perhaps, in 
its plain common-sense method. Thus Erasmus was an easy 
victim to Luther's dialectic : as Luther said of the controversy, 
" it was as easy as it was disagreeable to confute so superficial 
a treatise from so profound a scholar." But the duel waxed 
hotter. Erasmus quickly became " that poisonous serpent 
Erasmus of Rotterdam." Melanchthon was invoked from 
Basel to mitigate the harshness of the conflict. But the young 
man of 24, a scholar no less than his correspondent, saw, what 
Erasmus was never to see, that the problem of the new age 
was not to be solved by scholarship alone. The result of it all 
was that Erasmus drew insensibly nearer to the Roman side. 
He was ageing rapidly, and was unable to face the illimitable 
possibilities involved in the collapse of that ancient ecclesi- 
astical order which meant to him, as we shall see, so much 
besides itself. His real abiding interests remained steadily to 
the fore ; he resolutely put aside the controversy, which in its 
methods absolutely, and in large measure in its aims, was 
repellent to him. 

The Basel period (1522-1529) was, therefore, mainly given 

The ' Ciceronianus ' 27 

to literary activity. Of interest in the field of pure scholar- 
ship we have the Ciceronianus (1528), a dialogue on Latinity 
in which Erasmus appeals for a living Roman speech fit to 
be the vehicle of expression for modern needs and practical 
life. He had begun to interest himself in the discussion as 
to the limits of Imitation in style in 1526, and had no doubt 
watched with amusement the controversy on the subject which 
had arisen in Italy so far back as the day of Poliziano and 
Cortesius. He ridiculed, with his own peculiar sting, the 
mere Ciceronian who had reduced Latin to a purely imitative 
language, relying on the accident of Cicero's vocabulary or 
usage of inflectional forms. Erasmus' instinct was perfectly 
right in perceiving that such a canon implied the death of 
Latin as an instrument for modern life. But though he could 
appeal to such scholars as Poliziano and Pico, he roused 
against himself fierce controversialists of the younger type, 
like Julius Caesar Scaliger and Etienne Dolet, with the whole 
school of Padua. The unfortunate champion of common-sense 
was battered by a vituperation which had a truly theologic 
wealth of epithet and innuendo'. The treatise De Recta 
Latitii Graecique Servwnis Fronunciatione, which was regarded 
as the last word upon the subject of Greek pronunciation, for 
northern peoples at least, appeared in the same year. His 
work on Christian Matrimony, Itistitutio Christiani Matri- 
monii, had, like the De Re Uxoria of Francesco Barbaro 
written just a century before, a section — perhaps in each case 
the most interesting part of the work — on the bringing up of 
children. This dialogue is our best source for insight into 
Erasmus' thoughts on girls' education. In 1529 he printed 
also the De Pueris statini ac liberaliter instituendis, the 
ripest of his educational tracts, which is contained, in an 
English dress, in the present volume. Meantime he was 
applying himself still with marvellous energy, under stress of 
grievous bodily pain, to the origins of Christianity. The 
1 Upon the import of Ciceronianism see infra, p. 51. 

28 Last Years 

Paraphrases, or free Latin versions of the Gospels, had been 
begun at Louvain or Cambridge, and were all published by 
1524. They met with signal condemnation at the hands of 
controversialists of both camps. The works of St Ambrose 
were printed in the year of Froben's death (1527); the entire 
works of St Augustine in 1528-9 in ten folio volumes; St 
Chrysostom in five volumes in 1530. These dates will serve 
to indicate the untiring industry with which Erasmus kept his 
printers employed, although Erasmus' actual editing in some 
cases was but slight. The year of 1532 saw the publication of 
the great edition of the Comedies of Terence, always Erasmus' 
favourite classic : this is, perhaps, the most valuable, in a 
critical sense, of his classical recensions. 

Froben died in 1527 : his death was a great personal loss 
to Erasmus, although the work of the printing-house did not 
slacken. This event, coupled with the spread to Basel and 
the upper Rhine of the Reformation controversy, provoked 
once more the wandering spirit in Erasmus. It is not other- 
wise easy to explain his removal to Freiburg in 1529. For he 
had been probably happier at Basel than he had been any- 
where else since he left England in 15 14. He had friends, 
repute, congenial work, and adequate means, in spite of his 
confessed bad management in affairs. The atmosphere of the 
city was tolerant yet keen. But he fled to the strongly 
Catholic Imperial city which stands on the edge of the Black 
Forest, where the hills sink to the broad plain of the Rhine. 
There he hoped, he tells us, to find a more peaceful home, 
where no one would pester him to interest himself in the 
conflicts of the day. But the Diet of Augsburg sat in the 
following year (1530), and Erasmus began to moot the project 
of going still further away from such centres of disturbance, to 
Italy perhaps, or at least to Burgundy. The old restlessness 
was not to be laid, and it was steadily aggravated by the nature 
of his illness. It was no special mark of discontent or irrita- 
bility, as some biographers represent it, but the revolt of a 

Death of Erasmus, 1536 29 

temper passionately devoted to study against all that seemed to 
hinder him from the highest level of productive energy. In 
1536 he declares Basel to be after all a better residence than 
Freiburg, and is once more welcomed by the Froben circle, 
the best friends left to him, for Colet and More, the gracious 
figures of his brighter time, were already dead. In the very 
last year of his life he sent to the press the Ecclesiastes, a 
significant work, so reasonable, and, in the best sense. Evan- 
gelical in tone, on the Office of the Christian Preacher, followed 
by his edition of Origen. Working " till death itself wrested 
the pen from his hand," he ended his strenuous life on July 12, 


§ I. Erasmus and Antiquity. 

It is a proof of the intimate relation which subsisted 
between the Revival of Learning and the social milieu which 
rendered it possible, that a hundred years intervened between 
the residence of Chrysoloras at Florence and the beginnings 
of Greek studies in Paris or Oxford. The formative epoch of 
the Renaissance, the Quattrocento, was over before the 
northern peoples were fit to receive it, or were able to assimi- 
late it, and reproduce it in the special shape which the history 
and genius of each nationality determined. 

Of the various factors, differing in origin and character, 
which constitute the movement to which we give the title of 
Renaissance, the impulse to revive the form and the spirit of 
the antique world was but one. In Italy by virtue of causes 
readily intelligible this factor of the Renaissance filled a larger 
space and had subtler effects than in northern countries. One 
reason for this difference is, no doubt, that the undue self- 
consciousness, with the consequent artificiality and affectation, 
which mark the Italian Revival, had, so to say, worn through to 
the surface before the translation of the new ideal of culture 
beyond the Alps. For in Italy itself, by the time that the 
fifteenth century had reached its close, the more vigorous 
minds had already shed, or were shedding, the encumbrance 
of mere imitativeness. In language, in art, in building, in 

The Function of Antiquity 31 

literary form and in political thought, a truly new world had 
begun to arise. Amid the vast material which the past century 
had heaped together with such industry and enthusiasm the 
genius of Da Vinci, of Machiavelli and Michelangelo was busy 
sorting and re-ordering ; not now with the purpose of re-erect- 
ing in patient obedience the monuments of antiquity, but to 
create a dwelling for the modern spirit. Now it was the fact 
that Germany and Western Europe were socially and politically 
a hundred years behind Venice or Florence, that enabled them 
to receive the impulse of the Renaissance at the stage when 
its true vitalising force began to stand out from the immaturities 
of its early development. 

The career of Erasmus covers exactly this period of tran- 
sition. His powerful intellect, of a markedly objective and 
receptive type, was well-fitted to be the instrument of conveying 
and interpreting a many-sided movement of the human spirit. 
Like the Revival itself, he too passed through — as an ardent 
student, perhaps, must always pass — his period of idolatry, of 
imitation, of conscious affectations. The years of his youth 
and early manhood partly coincided with the reign of scholar- 
ship of that type. But with him also this was but a stage in 
development. Gradually the New Learning became to him an 
instrument of life, actual and modern ; a thing of use, to be 
adapted to intelligible needs, a source of illumination amid the 
hard experiences of ordinary men. In his maturity Erasmus 
showed himself a man of practical aims, with whom wisdom 
and scholarship were means to social well-being. 

It is the problem of Erasmus' personality to determine the 
relative place occupied in it, first by religion and next by 
humanist impulse, and to understand the nature of the recon- 
ciliation at which he arrived. Neither of these two currents of 
interest was at any time in his life operative to the exclusion 
of the other. But it is true to say that up to the time of 
quitting Stein in 1493, at the age of 26 or 27, his pre-occu- 
pations had been in the main with religion ; and that for the 

32 Erasmus and Antiquity 

next twenty years, a stage in his development even more 
critical, he was absorbed in the study of the ancient literatures. 
It would be impossible to account for the unexpected evidences 
of mediaeval sentiment and ways of thought even in the 
maturity of his powers, when the monastic concept of life had 
become wholly abhorrent, had we not before us the fact of the 
contented life which for ten years he led as an Augustinian 
monk. In the same way the intensity of his first humanist 
enthusiasm may explain certain odd inconsistencies in his view 
of the place to be filled by the antique in the modern world. 
That it is impossible to "classify" Erasmus was reluctantly 
admitted by his friends and by his enemies long before he 
died ; it has remained impossible ever since. His personality 
indeed is more complex than his contemporaries knew. But 
the Age itself was a strange conflict of Old and New, -of un- 
reconciled forces, of methods and of aims alike uncertain. 
And the receptivity of Erasmus' nature made it inevitable that 
he should reflect the contradictions which indeed his training 
and environment worked into the fibre of his spiritual self 

The presumptions involved in the Christian ideals of 
Erasmus will be touched upon later. We must here estimate 
the significance to him of the concept of antiquity which he 
found current amongst humanists when (about 1493) he sur- 
rendered himself first to their influence. From the writings of 
Italian scholars he found that the ancient civilisation was 
treated as the living heritage of their nation. It was in no 
sense regarded by them as an extinct order. On the contrary, 
it was a Golden Age, an ideal yet real past, worthy to evoke 
both patriotic pride and eager imitation. In this ancient 
culture the share of Rome was to the humanist by far the 
more important. The function of the scholar was to bring 
home to the citizen of Florence and Milan that Cicero, Vergil 
and Augustus belonged to him : that in that notable epoch 
were conceived and in large part realised the highest ideals of 
culture, of social order, of justice, of peace, and, not least, of 

Antiquity a Golden Age 33 

human personality. To some scholars, indeed, like Vittorino, 
the absence of Christian faith was an indelible blur upon the 
picture ; to Beccadelli, to Valla, or to the Roman Accademia, 
there was no blur. The language of Rome was the perfection 
of all speech ; the various literary forms elaborated in the 
Augustan age were the ideals of all composition ; in sculpture, 
architecture, military art, in agriculture and all technical crafts 
the Roman practice, if we could completely understand it, 
would prove the absolute standard for all time. There was no 
doubt in the mind of the Humanist that in the literature of 
Greece and Rome was contained all knowledge useful to man 
in each department of his life. To reproduce the antique 
order seemed the inevitable corollary from such an argument ; 
but, as Italian Popes and Princes failed to respond to the ideal 
sufficiently to induce political self-effacement, the dreams of 
scholars were restricted to restoring the realm of ancient know- 
ledge, literature and art. How did this strike Erasmus ? 

Let us remember carefully the social environment in which 
Erasmus lived. The constant factors of his experience were 
unceasing wars, plague, famine, gross vice, coarseness, cruelty, 
political tyranny, indifference to spiritual and intellectual light. 
In the stir and movement of the sense of nationality he per- 
ceived an inevitable hindrance to order and peace : local 
character, ambition, languages, were so many barriers to unity 
of culture, to progress through intercourse, to amelioration of 
common life. The Church instead of commanding respect 
as the symbol of a world-order, was debased, ignorant, and a 
source of danger. The New Learning, then, opens to him a 
window from which he looks out upon another world. Like 
the Italians he recognises in it a Golden Age of humanity. 
Its notes of distinction were, first, its universality: government 
and order were then secured to mankind : there was one law 
and uniform justice : war was impossible. Again, language 
was one, with free intercourse thereby opened between all 
peoples ; whilst Learning laboured under no obstacles of race 
w. 3 

34 Erasmus and Antiquity 

and speech. It was co-extensive with civilisation, the true 
Humanitas. Next, the material conditions of life were favour- 
able even to the poorest. The dignity of the City, the 
prosperity of the country, were such as no one might realise in 
the France or Germany of his day. Lastly, the level of 
attainments, scientific, artistic, or political, was infinitely in 
advance of anything had been reached in subsequent ages. 
In literature the supreme heights had been gained in the 
oratory, poetry, and philosophy of Greece and Rome. It was 
possible to hope for a gradual recovery in favoured lands of the 
wisdom and content which the ancient world enjoyed from 
the Indus to the Atlantic. Whether the modern world could 
attain to the standard of culture reached by the ancients was 
doubtful. That it should surpass it was hardly conceivable, 
though Erasmus had his sanguine moments. In any case the 
way to progress lay through the study of the great past. 

No doubt the remoteness in time of the Roman empire, 
and, still more, the lack of critical knowledge of its history and 
inner life conduced to easy idealisation. Still we must re- 
cognise — it is worth repeating — whence came the impulse to 
such belief: from a desire, never dormant, for a time when 
men's lives might be passed in peace and order, and human 
well-being rest on the sure basis of enlightenment. 

It is, however, a misreading of the man to ascribe to him 
the dream of a mere reproduction of the Roman world either 
as a political or as a social system. Of the two factors which 
render such an ideal to us unthinkable, Christianity and the 
spirit of nationality, Erasmus gave its due weight to the first 
alone. But that factor he realised to the full. His own keen 
sense of reality saved him from the affectation of neo-paganism 
in any of its forms. In such revivals he saw only a futile 
attempt to resuscitate a dead body ; whereas his aim was 
to unite and reconcile the ancient spirit with the new. 

Now the relative place to be given to each of these two 
elements varies partly with the stage of his development, 

Its Application to Modern Europe 35 

partly with his mood, or the precise object with which he 
writes. We cannot formulate a consistent doctrine from his 
writings or his practice. But the uniform belief of his working 
life may be thus expressed. A thorough study of ancient 
literature could, as nothing else, enlarge knowledge and elevate 
human motives. Acquaintance with the history and political 
writings of Greece and Rome would tend to raise the standard 
of government and to stimulate patriotic duty. By widening 
men's interests, by the application of arts long since lost, by 
abolishing war, by encouraging reason and illumination, 
society would be lifted on to a new plane — and this could 
only be effected by harking back to the wisdom stored in the 
historic past. He believed, also, that Christian doctrine could 
not be rightly understood without a rich acquaintance with the 
thought amid which it first grew up. Finally, as the ancient 
world held the key to the amelioration of the present, no 
education of the young was possible which was not built upon 
Greek and Roman models and administered through classical 
literature as its chief instruments But we must not forget that 
the classical civilisation was not, to Erasmus, merely a past. 
He was unable to view it as a purely historical phenomenon. 
It was an ideal to be defended or to be criticised : and modern 
progress signified approximation to that ideal, or at least to 
such aspects of it as were reconcileable with the Christian 
spirit. Here comes in the limitation of his outlook to which 
allusion has been made above ; his blindness to the true mark 
of modern history, the function of nationality. In his pas- 
sionate desire for the fruits of peace he sees only in national 
aspirations so many forces making for war and exclusion. 
When he concerns himself with current politics it is mostly 
with unwillingness and fitfully : he longs in his heart for a 
republic of enlightenment which knowing no country shall be 
coterminous with humanity. 

There is no question that in this ideal of a universal order 
we have also one principal clue to the dread with which he 


36 Erasmus and Antiquity 

regarded the Lutheran revolt. If to the barriers of political 
system and of vernacular languages were added an aggressive 
spiked fence of national churches and theologies, what hope 
was left for the peaceful advance of mankind ? The centri- 
fugal force of the Reformation dismayed Erasmus: for it boded 
a rude awakening from his dream of the priceless gift which 
the spirit of the ancient world was offering to the new. And 
this was a humanity bound together, in one faith and one 
culture, by the bond of universal peace. 

The appeal which Antiquity made to Erasmus thus rested, 
in large part, upon its aspect as a social ideal. But its attrac- 
tion can only be fully accounted for by a relation still more 
intimate: the special sympathy which he felt for the intellectual 
and moral temper of the old civilisation. In other words 
Erasmus found in Antiquity not only a social ideal, but the 
very pattern of his own personal attitude to thought and 
action. The spirit of Erasmus was, as has been said, of the 
type which moves freely only amidst ideas capable of easy 
verification and clear statement ; mostly of a concrete order, 
of direct human interest, of definite applicability to life and 
action. It is probable that Erasmus had little poetical feeling 
— his criticism of the Choruses of the Greek drama alone 
implies as much^ — nor do we find in him serious evidence 
of historical imagination. But we mus describe him as 
conspicuously deficient in all that concerns philosophical 
speculation, and mental analysis that passes below the surface 
of thought or morals. Thus he is never really at home with 
Plato; the earlier philosophers have no attraction for him. 

^ Erasmus is speaking of his versions of the two plays of Euripides 
(1506): 'in no other instance does antiquity appear to me to have played 
the fool so much as in this sort of choruses, in which eloquence was debased 
by an excessive affectation of novelty, and in aiming at verbal miracles all 
grasp of reality was lost.' The whole passage should be read: NichoUs,. 
Epistles, pp. 431 — 2. In 1507 Erasmus' knowledge of Greek wa^ still 
slight, and the chorus of a Greek play was beyond him. 

The Mental Attitude of Erasmus 37 

The great mediaevalists, with their gropings after a profound 
unifying concept in knowledge, were not properly appraised by 
him, or by any humanist. The dogmatic aspects of theology, 
particularly as they became drawn into the whirlpool of the 
Lutheran controversy, were repellent to him. Yet he often 
speaks — as do all humanists — of philosophia and sapientia. 
But in these words he is in effect referring to Cicero, Seneca, 
or Plutarch. " Philosophy " meant primarily to Erasmus and 
the Italians (Ficino, Pico and Sadoleto are notable exceptions) 
the clear self-evident working morality current in the best 
minds of the period between Caesar and the Antonines. In 
the same way, " doctrine " was the historic faith set out in the 
Gospels, and the social conduct based upon it. There is no 
trace of mysticism in his attitude towards religion : the quality 
is wholly alien from his temperament. Hence it was not 
difficult for him to reconcile the best moral teaching of the old 
world with Christianity, and to regard literature as, in skilful 
hands, a practical guide to action. In this he took up the 
ordinary humanist position. The tolerance towards others, 
the calm and reasonable judgment of ourselves, the hopeful 
estimate of humanity, which he found in Plutarch, were 
peculiarly characteristic of his objective way of regarding 
human nature. Then it is noticeable that of the Greek poetic 
or speculative spirit, in its deeper sense, Erasmus has little or 
nothing. Lucian and Plutarch he knows well. The world of 
Pythagoras, Aeschylus or Plato is all but closed to him. The 
practical wisdom of the Roman statesman-moralist is that 
which is most congenial to his temperament, and coincides 
most nearly with his outlook upon life. 

Reading Antiquity with these limitations the entire culture 
of the ancients struck him as marked by the same intelligi- 
bility, the same restraint. In politics as in literature there was 
a corresponding concreteness and absence of elusive generals. 
As contrasted with mediaeval conceptions in which abstractions 
played so large — and to Erasmus so irritating — a part, he found 

38 Erasmus and Antiquity 

the antique world singularly actual, definite and realisable. 
There is no doubt that his instinct was sound so far as it con- 
cerned Roman thought. It would even be true to say that 
such Aristotelian phrases as that of men ^u<r« SoCAot, or of 
avTovo/xia, were less doctrines based on a priori speculation 
than convenient expressions of political experience. In any 
case the "theory" of the Roman Empire set out through the 
Aeneid is merely a statement of the actual situation under 
Augustus. How wide a gulf separates such generalising from 
the theory of the Secular and the Religious Power of the 
1 2th and 13th centuries, of the Functions of Government 
of the 17 th, or of the Rights of Man of the i8th ! Similar 
characteristics exist outside the region of politics, in the 
literature, the art, the building, in the entire moral and intel- 
lectual interpretation of the World as presented by his 
favourite Roman authors : all was objective, descriptive ; there 
was nothing to call either for the mystic or the analytic spirit 
in their understanding. 

Antiquity, then, as Erasmus read it, made this two-fold 
appeal to him : the first, that of a social-cultural ideal, capable 
of being harmonised with the Christian ideal, and so fit for the 
modern age; the second, that of an intellectual type deeply 
congruous with his own. It is in the operation of this double 
attraction that we find the explanation of his zeal for the study 
of the ancient world, and, it may be added, the key to certain 
limitations and inconsistencies which we shall note in his 
interpretation of it. 

Antiquity thus understood was in truth the " New World " 
to the humanist; the "Old World" was that of expiring 
Scholasticism, effete, puerile, in its second childhood. Scholas- 
ticism had recognised only one aspect of human nature — 
thought ; and the forms of thought had been so reduced to 
rule, summary and dogmatic exposition as to lose all interest 
for intelligent men. The other sides of human life, literature, 
art and passion, had been either ignored or repressed. They 

Opposition to the Ancient Culture 39 

had remained, perforce, unreconciled with the dominant culture, 
and stood without as lawless aliens. Now in the New Age 
these were to claim their rightful place by support of the 
great precedents of the world of Greece and Rome. But 
Erasmus, with German and English humanists behind him, was 
disposed to make conditions. 

§ 2. The Reconciliation of the Antique with the 
Christian Spirit. 

The humanists of the Quattcocento, in their task of basing 
upon the ancient literatures the edifice of a new education, 
were by no means uniformly concerned about the relation of 
their ideal of knowledge to religion. On the one hand 
Vergerio, Vittorino and Ficino — to take one type — were always 
conscious of a problem to be faced and a reconciliation to be 
effected' ; whilst Filelfo, Valla and Beccadelli appeared frankly 
indifferent to any such issues. Over against both stood the 
obscurantists, who decried all pagan culture as the enemy of 
Christianity and a direct danger to morality. To this class 
belonged Giovanni Dominici, the Friar of Santa Maria 
Novella ; not a few of the preaching Friars were conspicuously 
of the same opinion ; and with them must be reckoned as 
at least in partial sj^mpathy Savonarola^ These no doubt 

1 " Nel Vergerio 1' umanista ed il credente mai si contradicono, ma vivono 
quasi a dire 1' uno per 1' altro," Epist. Verg. p. xix. 

On Vittorino, see Woodward, Vittorino, pp. 27, 241. L. Bruni rests 
his defence of ancient learning upon the predominance of noble types of 
character in the classical masterpieces: he also urges that unedifying 
"fictions are not to be taken literally." Op. cit., p. 131. 

Ficino and the Platonic Academy professed as their central aim the 
philosophical reconciliation of Christianity and antiquity. 

^ On Dominici, who was very bitter, see Rosier, Kurd. J. Dominicis 
Erziehiingslehre, esp. pp. 28 — 9: and Dominici, Regola del Govemo, p. 134. 
G. da Pralo declaimed at Ferrara (1450) against Terence and other poets, 
denouncing all who copied, translated or taught them. On the other hand 

40 Antiquity and Christianity 

represented a large number of earnest-minded Italians of 
the fifteenth century, to whom the revival of antiquity was a 
movement to be cautiously watched if not wholly deplored. 

It was inevitable that the champions of the New Learning 
in northern countries should find themselves confronted by 
similar scruples more widely held. In explanation it may be 
urged that in Italy patriotic enthusiasm claimed an unqualified 
allegiance to the revival of the ancient culture. Or it may be 
argued that, historically, the Teutonic spirit has shown itself 
more sensitive than the Italian to the supremacy of the moral 
sanction and has been, therefore, more readily affected by a 
discord between creed and practice. This divergence of atti- 
tude may plausibly be connected with distinction of national 
type. For we feel that much that is characteristic of a citizen 
of Florence or Venice of that age is hardly conceivable in 
respect of the burgher-life of a northern community, even of 
Augsburg, Nuremberg or Bruges, which in wealth or artistic 
interests most resembled an Italian city. The " complete 
man" of the Renaissance, whether a man of action or an 
artist, pursuing his ends in serene detachment from the moral 
factor, with the single aim of virtu, personal distinction, — such 
a type of individuality was only developed in its fulness south 
of the Alps. When he appears in the north, as in Thomas 
Cromwell, for example, he seems incongruous, almost mon- 
strous. At the same time we must allow for the effects 
produced by the intrusion of the Reform at a period so early 
in the development of the northern Revival of Letters ; for 
whether for Catholic or for Protestant the new interest in 
religion brought conduct still more definitely into conscious- 
ness. Calvin and the Council of Trent had at least this in 
common that both expressed reaction against a non-moral 
view of life. Erasmus, therefore, as a chief agent in the 

Alberto da Sarteano, a popular preaching Friar, in the same city, affirmed 
that the study of the classics in right hands redounded to true religion. 
Sabbadini, Vita di Guarino, pp. 146 — 7. 

The Arguments against the Revival 41 

transfer of the Renaissance to the German and English 
peoples was confronted with this problem. The inevitable 
conflict of ideals and their reconciliation as the Teutonic 
peoples reached it may be regarded indeed as typified in him. 
An enquiry into his attitude towards this issue is amongst the 
most instructive of those which concern Erasmus. 

It is obvious that the present-day historian of the Renais- 
sance approaches the question from a very different point of 
view from that of a scholar of the time, and that as a con- 
sequence the stress of the argument on either side will be 
found to have varied. For to us the ancient world is primarily 
a historical phenomenon, to be weighed and criticised with the 
detachment which suits a historical enquiry. Four centuries 
ago, however, the Roman culture was a practicable ideal of life, 
and as such was advocated or opposed with the zeal of partisan- 
ship. A purely objective view of antiquity was in those days 
of enthusiasm an impossibility, and a rational judgment of its 
phenomena unattainable. 

In endeavouring then to disentangle and to interpret the 
attacks upon profane learning with which the scholars of the 
Revival were familiar we may classify them under three groups. 
The first includes the arguments drawn from the antagonism 
between the spirit of the antique and of the Christian world 
in respect of the ideal of human perfection. Such arguments, 
now disconnected from the comparison of the old culture with 
the new, have lost none of their force and touch the entire 
question of the relation of morals to the art of living. 
Another group of objections rested upon the evil example set 
by scholars, artists or rulers who had yielded themselves to the 
full impulse of the New Learning'. There are, thirdly, argu- 
ments of the more usual type, which were suggested by mere 
superstition and ignorance. We discern in the writings of 
Erasmus his attitude to criticisms determined in these three 
directions, which may be considered in order. 

^ On this see Burckhardt, Civilisation of the Rett., p. 273. 

42 Antiquity and Christianity 

The contrast between ideal excellence accepted in Italy 
at the Renaissance— viz. virtu, or distinction expressed in 
individuality, personal force and self-assertion— and the corre- 
sponding Christian virtue of humility, self-repression, and 
surrender to external Will, is the most striking of all the 
oppositions involved. It might be worth enquiring how far the 
Italian concept of virtu was in fact a product of interest in, 
and absorption of, the antique spirit ; at any rate it was 
identified with it by those who combated the Revival. This 
passionate sense of Personality was beyond doubt a character- 
istic note of the new Italy and expressed itself in various ways. 
The craving for Fame, during life or after death, and the 
interpretation of immortality in the Horatian sense ("non 
omnis moriar"), was one of the commonest and most signifi- 
cant of these manifestations. Closely akin were a desire to 
provoke envy, and the hatred of a mere conventional status, 
much more of any conditions likely to imply contempt. 
Parents have no right to allow their son to be born in a city of 
mean repute or to give him a name of which he might feel 
ashamed'. The pursuit of thoroughness in political aims (as 
with Machiavelli or Cesare Borgia) or in technical skill (as in 
Cellini), unhampered by moral law, was perhaps the aspect of 
virtii which most disturbed northern observers. Hardly less 
typical of the same quality were the egoism of the humanist 
orator, always forcing his personality to the foreground', and 
the overweening sense of importance of the scholar, even the 
smartness of the bravo. It is not that self-consciousness was 
peculiar to this particular age, but that it was accepted as 
natural, as praiseworthy, as a notable element in distinction. 
Nearly allied to this was the concept of the present as the sole 
object of concern to men of intelligence. This was in large 

^ Cp. Vergerius, De Ingen. Moribtis, in Woodward, op. cit. p. 96. 

* The art of delivery was scarcely second to that of composition, so that 
the scholar was actor as well, whereby we can understand that the flood- 
gates of egoism were thrown wide. 

The Arguments against the Revival 43 

measure a direct consequence of the passion for the antique 
world. By not a few enthusiasts the doctrine of a future life 
was vaguely held or wholly ignored \ The Papacy, which set 
the temper of the current religion, was from time to time 
frankly secular in motive and demoralising in effect. The cult 
of grace of form in art and Letters, in personality, in society, 
was accompanied by the abeyance of idealism in thought and 
belief. It was easy to show that absorption in pagan culture 
did as a fact induce a habit of viewing and appraising thought 
and action in all departments as things separable from spiritual 
truths. This secularisation of knowledge, motives and life was 
most noticeable in the ecclesiastical sphere, in the latter half of 
the fifteenth century, and that was due, it was alleged, to the 
influence of humanism. 

As regards the argument from example, the poems of 
Beccadelli, the epigrams of Janus Pannonius*, the moral 
obliquity of Filelfo or Valla pointed to a danger lest a new 
sanction to immorality might be pleaded from the authority of 
ancient practice. The devout Churchman was aroused by the 
difference of standard as to personal purity, by the nature of 
many classical myths, by the very grace of the language in 
which these were clothed by the poets. Even the affectation 
of paganism, such as the use of classical forms to describe the 
institutions and the mysteries of the Church, appeared to 
serious people as a grave risk. The crimes and the unscru- 
pulous policy of rulers and statesmen, avowedly disciples of 
classical learning, were taken as evidence of its perilous in- 
fluence upon character. 

The objections of the remaining group are less worthy of 

^ Erasmus records that he discussed the subject of immortality with a 
scholar in Rome who rested his denial of a future life on the authority of 
the elder Pliny: Nolhac, J^rasme eti Italie, p. 77. Cp. also Eras. Op. iii. 
189 A. 

^ He was a pupil of Guarino, and became a Hungarian Bishop. But 
his poetry was in the vein of Martial. 

44 Antiquity and Christianity 

respect. The new light had a disturbing effect upon certain 
accepted opinions in the ecclesiastical world. Valla had 
exercised his scholarship in demolishing the evidence for the 
famous Donation of Constantine : he had shown how to apply 
critical methods formed from classical reading to the study of 
the New Testament. It was reasonably feared that many 
sacred Arks would be touched if principles of enquiry drawn 
from secular learning were to be accepted. The Praise of 
Folly, the Colloquies^ and the Epistolae Obsairorum Virorum 
reveal the presence of other perils. A knowledge of Greek 
invariably turns a man into a heretic '. To understand Hebrew 
means that you are becoming a Jew. Every statue of Venus or 
Apollo is the abode of a demon. Monks recalled the story 
that when Boniface consecrated the Pantheon of Agrippa the 
devils had been seen escaping through the opening in the 
dome*^. To teach Christian youth the old mythology was to 
invite Satan to re-occupy his ancient seat. 

How then did Erasmus regard the conflict? His stand- 
point was inevitably determined, as has been said already, by 
the complex conditions — of mind and temperament, of training 
and experience — which moulded his spirit. To take the out- 
ward or historical determinations first, we know that the young 
Erasmus was brought up under the influence of the deep 
affection of his mother and that down to his twenty-sixth year 
his surroundings were those of a sheltered, studious and not 
too robust existence. All was conducive to the outlook upon 
life of a serious though enquiring Churchman. The following 
period of about twenty years (1492-1510) was for him a time 
of wavering aims, of which a breaking loose from mediaeva- 
lism in an intellectual sense and a rapidly growing interest 
in Antiquity were the characteristic marks. When the full 

^ One of Guarino's stories was of a Friar who derived "Ethnici" (i.e. the 
heathen) from Aetna, a mouth of Hell, from which they sprang. 

^ See the story in Gregorovius, History of the city of Rome, ii. p. 1 10 
(Eng. transl.). The date, A.D. 604. 

The Attitude of Erasmus 45 

impulse to Greek studies was upon him there is no doubt that 
he passed through a stage in which the inducement to yield 
himself wholly to classical enthusiasm was keenly felt. From 
1499 to 1506 he was much absorbed in Greek; but at this 
time the influence of Colet and More proved of singular 
moment in determining his bent. We know from his corre- 
spondence how deeply he appreciated the sobriety of the 
English type of scholarship, and that association of learning 
with Christian life and with public duty which his friends so 
conspicuously exhibited. The reconciliation, therefore, of the 
old and the new was accomplished before his eyes, in that 
practical fashion which harmonised with his own temper. The 
visit to Italy which followed (1506) took place when he was 
just forty years of age. His tastes and habits, and his intel- 
lectual attitude were well nigh fixed. The specific object of 
his journey had been settled long before. It was as a student 
of Greek that he set out ; and as a most industrious student he 
lived at Bologna, Venice and Padua. Thus he saw in Italy 
just what he had prepared himself to see, and it has been 
shown above that the limitations of his interests were very 
definite. Politics scarcely affected him, art not at all. He 
had no taste for any form of sumptuous self-indulgence ; the 
grosser side of paganism had no attraction for him. The 
scholars into whose society he was chiefly thrown, Bom- 
basius, Aldus, Musurus, were all men of fine character and 
strong mental balance. In Rome, indeed, he was in contact 
with another type of society. But Erasmus quickly detected 
the unreality and affectations which characterised its humanism. 
His solid sense was amused rather than disturbed by the 
playing at paganism and the condescensions to Christianity of 
eminent scholars. It may be affirmed that his experience 
of Rome showed him that the dream of a reproduction of the 
ancient world was of the nature of a make-believe, which 
could work nothing for good, and perhaps very little for evil. 
Erasmus, however, was not blind to the importance of the fact 

46 Antiquity and Christianity 

that the sanction of the religious capital of the world should 
at this period be so freely accorded to ancient Letters. 

Erasmus returned in 1509 to the wholesome atmosphere of 
his English friendships. He has now reached, once for all, the 
conviction that the line of progress lay in the direction of the 
incorporation of antique wisdom into the frame-work of a 
purified Christian thought and society. The culture of Greece 
and Rome could play a part for modern men only by adapta- 
tion to the actual world. Moreover, he saw his own share in 
the work marked out for him. It was, in part, to aid education 
in its task of fitting man to absorb the noble gift of the ancient 
civilisation : in part, to apply the method of scholarship to the 
historical origins of Christianity. 

The Reformation scarcely affected the mental attitude of 
Erasmus, unless perhaps to strengthen his consciousness of 
this particular duty of enlightenment by education and learning 
which he had taken upon himself. Nothing that he wTote 
during the later period of his career marks any serious modifi- 
cation of the point of view which he had attained before the 
Lutheran revolt. 

So much for the outward determinations. Passing next to 
consider the religious temper of Erasmus, we are aware that he 
was constantly accused by his enemies of a lack of one of the 
deeper instincts of the Christian consciousness, the sense of 
the depravity of human nature. It has been already admitted 
that his spiritual analysis was never very profound. He held a 
view of humanity which was certainly optimistic in respect of 
the individual and of the race. The working of the Logos 
"outside the Covenant" was with him a matter of sincere 
conviction. He found evidence of it in the lofty thought and 
moral ideals of Socrates, Cicero and Vergil. Defective train- 
ing, evil circumstances, made men bad : by nature they were 
created for good. Such a view of the human spirit led easily 
to an attitude towards the great past which was in itself a 
reconciliation. It was natural to seek a parallel between 

The Attitude of Erasmus 47 

Christian aspiration and conduct and those of the nobler 
• figures of paganism. The parallel, indeed, became an identity. 
As to the corruptions of antiquity they were, like the evils of 
the Christian world, but deflections. Each must be judged by 
its best examplars and its highest moments. 

Given this point of view it is easy to see that the conflict 
between ancient and modern ideals did not exist for Erasmus 
in an acute form. He had little fear of pagan license, less of 
pagan superstition, for his own reasonableness made such 
dangers inconceivable. 

However, Erasmus was always ready to weigh the doubts 
of people of whose intelligence and earnestness he was 
assured. His method of meeting them in the present case 
was characteristic. It is, he holds, partly a question of degree, 
partly of ends. There may be too much weight attached to 
speculation, or to rhetoric, too much interest in mythology, or 
too much craving for reputation for learning'. Character and 
usefulness in life are primary ends : scholarship is but a means, 
a precious means indeed, to such ends. A sense of the right 
application of knowledge to life is a crucial test of a true 
teacher. Hence selection of authors is a special function of 
every master. For example, only the most serious obligation 
will justify anyone in treating Martial. Such admissions 
Erasmus makes readily enough. But in truth he feels that the 
problem must be settled by the broad aims with which the 
ancient learning is advocated. Allow that its main tendency is 
for good — for religion, for wisdom, for efficiency in life — the 
question of details will solve itselfl 

Hence we do not find one uniform line of defence in 

1 Eras. Op. iii. 925 D and 688 F. 

* For example, in spite of the undeniable importance of the religious 
end in education, he will not yield so far as to substitute Christian late Latin 
poets for Vergil or Lucan. Op. ix. 93 E. The Psalms are holier than the 
Odes of Horace, but if your object is to learn good Latin you must choose 
Horace. Op. i. 922 B. 

48 Antiquity and Christianity 

Erasmus' writings. In the De Ratione (15 11) he is hardly 
conscious that a difficulty exists. The Ciceronianus (1528) is, 
on the other hand, a warning against the pagan temper. But 
there was no yielding of his position, even when Melanchthon 
and most humanist Reformers seemed to abate their ideal of 
scholarly education under stress of religion. The De Pueris 
(1529) and the preface to the Tusculans (1532) are pitched in 
the key of earnest conviction that the light of which the times 
stand in so sore need is to be found not in Scripture alone but 
in the organised experience and wisdom of antiquity. 

It may with some fairness be alleged of Erasmus that he is 
too anxious to disown as his aim the true self-abandonment of 
the scholar in his subject. It was the corollary of his "practical" 
temper; his want of sympathy with speculative thought' — 
ancient and mediaeval alike — is only an illustration of it. Yet 
we may say that his actual practice was better than his 
principle. In the region of language and in the editing of 
texts he provided material, genuine products of research, for 
others to use. 

Erasmus, however, was not content with resisting attacks 
upon Antiquity in the supposed interests of religion. He has 
several positive arguments to bring forward from the history of 
Christianity. The first is that the universal Graeco-Roman 
culture rendered possible the spread of Christianity. The 
next, that its foundations lie in the ancient society and cannot 
be considered apart from it. The use of classical learning for 
the explanation of the truths of religion is manifold and indis- 
pensable. Hence a real knowledge of divinity is impossible 
without Greek : the New Testament is perverted in the hands 
of one ignorant of the liberal disciplines. In the third place, 
Erasmus, like all humanists, dwells upon the approbation of 

1 " I am not unjust to philosophy, but she is only an adjunct to 
knowledge." Op. ix. 103 D. Detailed study of philosophy leads to arro- 
gance, and is bad for healthy common sense. He had never forgotten the 
scholastic theology of his Paris days. 

Reconciliation by Allegory 49 

ancient literature recorded by Basil, Jerome and Augustine \ 
This proves that no inconsistency exists between the two great 
fields of knowledge. How much did not Basil or Chrysostom 
owe to Plutarch^? Finally, the study of grammar, logic, of 
the orators, poets, and moralists was, as a mere fact of history, 
of first-rate importance to the early ages of the Church : and 
the Church had not refused to use them — so far as it could 
understand them — ever since. 

One further argument he derives from the study of his- 
torical Christianity : that pagan stories may be utilised for 
religious and moral edification by the method of Allegory. 
This reliance upon an arbitrary and uncritical treatment of 
literature strikes us as inconsistent with Erasmus' main canon 
of interpretation. But he has drawn it from the Greek 
Fathers, notably Origen ; and we have here another instance 
of the want of precision in Erasmus' logical thinking. For 
purpose of edification he surrenders, unconsciously perhaps, 
one of his most characteristic principles of criticism. He 
affirms that all phenomena in Nature may be regarded as 
reflections of moral states. Hence the place of allegory in 
exposition. Scripture does not satisfy us if we limit ourselves 
to literal interpretation : for example, the stories of Esau and 
his birthright, of Goliath, of Samson. Much of the Old Testa- 
ment, indeed, may be perilous to morals, if taken literally. He 
then proceeds to affirm that poetry, especially Homer and 
Vergil, and the entire Platonic philosophy, are "allegorical," 
and offensive myths may in this way be rendered harmless 
or actually helpful. Unfortunately Erasmus did not confine 
himself to considering the particular " allegorical " interpre- 
tations which may have been intended by Plato or Vergil ; he 
opened the door to floods of arbitrary glosses and moral 

1 Basil's Letter was translated by Lionardo Bruni under the title De 
legendis Gentilium libris, one of the most popular tracts of early humanism. 
On Augustine, Eras. Op. x. 1731. 

' Eras. Op. v. 856 E; iii. 251 E. 

W. 4 

50 Antiquity and Christianity 

lessons such as the mediaevalists had applied to all depart- 
ments of thought. On the other hand this should be said. 
The allegorical method is the intermediate stage between a 
conscious antinomy and its historical solution. Now the day 
for the perception of evolution in knowledge, beHefs, or morals 
was not yet : though we can trace certain partial recognitions 
of it in Erasmus. A harmony between apparent contraries — 
for example, the God of the Gospels and the Jehovah of the 
Book of Judges — must be reached, for both concepts were 
integral parts of the same belief. The historical attitude being 
impossible, the Allegory was the only instrument of reconcili- 
ation. But such allegories rested upon no critical basis, they 
were at the disposal of any ingenious mind, and could take any 
form which the exigencies of the argument required. Hence 
to the neutral enquirer, with no specific cause to advance, such 
a method served to bring to light, rather than to solve, the 
problem to which it was applied. In a review of Erasmus' 
attitude to antiquity this illustration of it is of interest. For it 
reveals, once more, his essential position — that the ancient 
culture must be reconciled with the Christian ideal before it 
can be assimilated by the modern man. To sum up, Erasmus 
did not believe that the risk of paganising western Europe 
through the classics was serious enough to be accounted an 
argument against their study ^ He was conscious, on the 
other hand, that the " Ages of Faith," or as he regarded them 
the "Ages of barbarism," were by no means guiltless of 
moral degradation, of which unenlightened Christian Germany 

^ For the same common-sense point of view in Euglish educators of the 
Tudor time see W. Raleigh, Introduction to the Book of the Courtier, 
p. xlvi. 

As to danger to faith, positive anti-Christian feeling was very rare 
amongst Italian or other humanists: though it came, of course, easily 
enough to a controversialist to confuse indifference to, or criticism of, 
received opinions with absolute disbelief. In this way Valla and Erasmus 
were both "unbelievers." 

The Doctrine of Imitation 5 1 

afforded a contemporary example. To Erasmus or Melanchthon ' 
there could be no alliance between religion and ignorance, no 
antagonism between Christianity and intelligence. A new 
body of organised wisdom had been revealed to the world : it 
stood in true affinity to sound religion. But only on certain 
conditions. First, the pre-eminence of the Christian — not the 
ascetic, but the self-respecting — type of personality must be 
assumed : next, the end of all wisdom is the service of God 
and the community, not the self-culture of the individual : 
thirdly, such practical ends are inconsistent with an ideal of 
mere imitation or reproduction of the letter of the past. 

§ 3. Erasmus and the Ciceronians. 

A chapter of much interest in the history of Latin scholar- 
ship is occupied by the development of the doctrine of 
Imitation. It may be accepted as generally true that the 
earlier humanists, Bruni, Poggio and Vittorino, aimed at a 
sound working Latin style, suited to the needs of the age, fit 
to be the medium of expression in affairs as well as in learning. 
The standard to be obeyed was indeed that of the best Roman 
period, but, so far as general classical usage in accidence and 
syntax allowed, the principle of elasticity and adaptability was 
observed. No one model was regarded as exclusively authori- 
tative : nor was rigid adhesion to precedent for inflexional 
form or vocabulary imposed ^ 

1 Melanchthon in his inaugural address at Wittenberg in 151 8 proclaims 
the impossibility of knowledge or moral advance without a fervent revival 
of Greek studies in Germany. Religion, above all, stood in need of their 
aid. De Corrigetidis Siudiis, 15 18. 

^ "Scuole umanistiche 1' Italia ne ebbe due: una grande e una piccola, 
quella degli eroi del quattrocentro e quella degli epigoni del cinquecento. 
I latinisti del quattrocento riproducevano tutte le forme letterarie della 
cultura romana per il bisogno di riprodurre, ma vi imprimevano la propria 


52 Erasmus and the Ciceronians 

With the elaboration of grammar and the closer study of 
style which date from Valla, the claims of special authors to 
pre-eminence were accepted. Before the end of the fifteenth- 
century tlie theory of Imitation in Latinity was keenly discussed 
between scholars of weight, like Cortesius and Poliziano. 
Pico and Bembo carry on the controversy in 1 5 1 2 ; Erasmus 
and Longolius discuss the subject eight years later; by 1526 
the question has become a bitter dispute, and France and 
Italy are involved against German scholars. This issued 
(1528) in the Dialogus Ciceronianus of Erasmus. A year or 
two later Scaliger and Dolet joined the fray. Though Erasmus 
preserved a dignified silence under a storm of personal abuse, 
his friends took up his cause ; and the argument was dying out 
when the great Muretus (1556) closed it once for all in the 
Erasmian sense. 

The controversy is pertinent to a study of Erasmus but not 
on the issue of the special merit of Cicero's Latinity as against 
that of Livy or Tacitus. It concerns the present enquiry by 
reason of the light which is thrown thereby upon the attitude 
to the Revival of Letters which characterises Erasmus. 

The arguments turn upon four points : first, the function of 
Latin, as understood in the age of the Revival ; second, the 
determination of " perfection " in Latin literature ; third, the 
relation of " imitation " to style ; fourth, the broader impli- 
cations which in Erasmus' belief were bound up with 

It has been said that the founders of humanism had a 
clear concept of Latin as a living language. And it is of the 
essence of a living tongue that it has freedom to adapt itself, 

personalita potente e viva, riuscendo nell' imitazione originali, doveche i 
cinquecentisti non facevano che bamboleggiare ciceroneggiando." Sabbadini, 
Prolusione, p. 18. It may be stated perhaps as a principle that, in the 
first stage of every Revival, spirit rather than letter is seized and reproduced. 
The tendency to scholarly, and ultimately pedantic, imitation follows when 
the original impulse has died down. Cp. infra, p. 60, note. 

Artificiality in Language 53 

to expand, to absorb and assimilate. A vigorous language will 
none the less preserve its special genius, its inflexional system, 
its syntax. On the other hand to restrain a language from 
enlarging vocabulary, from enriching its figures, metaphors, 
similes, by modern instances, from utilising its fullest in- 
flexional forms, in deference to the limitations of a past age, 
means only one thing — that the language is dying, or is dead. 
Now, the Ciceronian in disallowing a word, a compound, or an 
inflexion, absent, by accident or design, in the surviving works 
of Cicero proclaimed Latin to be just a toy or a specimen: the 
appanage of the dilettante, not the instrument of a living 
civilisation. Erasmus saw this clearly. " Times are changed : 
our instincts, needs, ideas, are not those of Cicero. Let us 
indeed take example from him. He was a borrower, an 
imitator, if you will ; but he copied in order to assimilate, to 
bring what he found into the service of his own age. Through- 
out Cicero's letters, — what verve, what actuality, what life ! 
How remote they are from the compositions of the pedant 
working in his study." He criticises certain orations of the 
Ciceronian Longolius. He finds them stuffed with artificiality: 
their author is as " a man walking in the land of make-believe : 
where by waving the Ciceronian's wand he calls up before an 
admiring world Senates and Consuls, ' colonies ' and ' allies,' 
Quirites and Caesars, and persuades us that they are the 
actualities of to-day, alive and real, substances and not 
shadows." Why pretend that the antique virtue is restored 
by the trick of dubbing modern degeneracy by ancient names? 
Let us face realities as we know them and fit our Latin to 
these as the expression of a modern world of politics, thought 
and feeling. The Ciceronians deliberately ignored this prime 
condition of the function of Latinity, in their pursuit of a 
liberal, and formal reproduction of their modeP. 

1 Dolet, indeed, maintained that Cicero gave all that was necessary 
to the full demands of the present: "human character and social life are 
not variable quantities." But the limits imposed are such as to cramp 

54 Erasmus and the Ciceromans 

Secondly, the purists, as Burckhardt' rightly says, regarded 
the Ciceronian style as Latein an sick — the Absolute in 
Roman speech. Bembo describes Cicero as " unus scribendi 
magister " : Dolet affirms that he is " purissimus linguae 
Latinae fons, flumen, oceanus," and adds that vocabulary, 
sentence forms, harmony of construction, all reach their 
highest conceivable pitch of refinement in him. If other 
writers may be read it can only be as examples of what must be 
avoided, as a sure means of bringing back the errant reader to 
the one attractive path *. Scaliger placed Cicero on the supreme 
pinnacle : his was the glory of literal inspiration, criticism of 
which was a form of profanity. 

Now Erasmus was saved from such exaggerations partly by 
that instinct of proportion which was in the main his constant 
quality, partly by the width of his outlook upon classical 
antiquity. He points out that Cicero does not cover the whole 
ground . even of Roman culture. Further he recognises in 
Cicero certain marked defects in style ; so that Quintilian even 
had already found it necessary to deprecate an ignorant worship 
of his oratorical method. He goes further and bids the 
scholar follow Cicero in spirit, which will compel him to study 
the genius and not the letter of the language. In the Dialogue 
Erasmus wields the keenest weapons of his satire. " Woe," he 
says, " to the scholar who closes a Letter with a date of the 

individuality of expression. *' Qui in Cicerone versatur, eadem semper verba 
usurpet necesse est, sed ad rem susceptam ita diverse accommodata ut 
simul latine, pure, eleganter, proprie, apte, ornate, copiose, denique 
tuliiane loquatur et varie, ut nihil repetitum aut plus semel dictum indices." 
It is evident from this that Dolet in reality would force matter to comply 
with the requirements of Ciceronian style. There was to be no going out- 
side of Cicero's precedents, until you were absolutely certain that these 
could not be twisted to the desired use. " Good Latin " thus became a mere 
matter of ingenuity. 

^ Cardinal Adriano, of Corneto, is the scholar to whom Burckhardt 
specially refers, Civil, of Ren., p. 254 n. 

' Bembo, J?/. Fam. v. 17: Dolet, De Cice7-oniana itnitatione, p. 62. 

The Attitude of Poliziano 55 

year as well as of the month : Cicero gives the month only ; 
or who opens it with 6". /. d. : Cicero's practice is to omit the 
adjective. Ferdinando Res;e has precedent : there is none in 
Cicero for Rege Ferdinando." We can imagine the scorn which 
the broadly human scholar, the large-souled man of the world, 
poured out upon pre-occupation with such verbal criticism. 
Where was the hope of an universal culture, to be built upon 
all that was greatest in antiquity, if the men of the past were to 
be regarded as so many corpses for dissection? The Ciceronian 
superstition, therefore, meant the death of scholarship ; and 
Erasmus said so. For this he was denounced' as "the enemy 
of Cicero," " the destroyer of the Latin tongue," " monstrum," 
" carnifex." 

Next, as the Ciceronian canon was slowly formulated, it 
was inevitable that, in an age when Oratory and Letter- 
writing held so large a place, scholars should debate the 
question of the limits of Imitation in composition. The true 
proportions of the problem first appear in the discussion 
between Poliziano and Cortesius. In writing to the latter 
Poliziano^ states his own doctrine of style. "The truly learned 
writer is one whose style emerges from a continued process of 
erudite study, of comparison of styles, and of actual effort at 
composition." Fine expression, he means, is a sort of emana- 
tion from the equipped and practised writer, something intimate, 
personal and therefore inalienable. "On the other hand he 
whose method is that of direct imitation is hardly different 
from a parrot, which repeats what are to it but meaningless 
sounds. Hence," he goes on, " writing of this kind is without 
reality; it lacks the stamp of individuality, it leaves no impress; 
it has no nerve, no life; it arouses no emotion in others, no 
energy. Tear yourself away from that miserable superstition 

^ We must note that Bembo and Sadoleto recognising the distinction of 
Erasmus took no part in this abuse. Scaliger and Dolet were the real 

"^ The letter of Poliziano in Politiani opera, Ed. Aldina, sig. I. III., 
Lib. viii. 

56 Erasmus and the Ciceronians 

which forces you to decry your own writing because it is not a 
copy of some one else's, and which bids you never withdraw 
your eyes from Cicero. Non exprimis, inquit aliquis, Cicero- 
nem. Quid tum ? Non enim sum Cicero : me tamen, ut 
opinor, exprimo." 

The same argument was adopted by Pico' in his corre- 
spondence with Pietro Bembo. Accepting to the full the 
Renaissance doctrine of virtil^ he maintains that every man 
must be something personal and individual, and that imitation 
of another is a mere substitute for personality. No one, there- 
fore, can properly limit himself to one model of expression. 
Like a painter he will appropriate and combine what is best 
for his purpose from all schools. The variety of modern life 
makes it impossible for one writer to give us vocabulary or 
style equal to so far-reaching a demand. Admitting that a 
modern can " imitate " Cicero : what does this mean ? He 
may adopt his vocabulary; but Cicero's handling of his 
vocabulary is not within any one else's power. An illustration : 
' " You try to re-build as it stood a wall which has been thrown 
down. The material, we allow, is the same, but almost of a 
certainty the ordering of the bricks, and beyond all question, 
the cementing, will be new, and will be yours." You must 
admit therefore an original, self-directed element in every 
imitative style. An actual reproduction of Cicero could be 
nothing but a tour de force, ingenious but worthless. A 
" Ciceronian " Brief issued from the Chancery is an impossi- 
bility : for a cento of phrasings and passages would not rightly 
be called after Cicero's name. 

Bembo"^ replies that an original style cannot now be pro- 
duced. All conceivable styles have been exhausted by the 
ancients. An eclectic style would have no unity. He affirms 
as the final law of the writer : seek out the one supreme 

^ J. F. Picus ad P. Bembum, de imitatione, 1530. It was written 1512. 
* P. Bembus ad J. F. Picum, de imitatione, in same volume as the 
Letter of Pico : cciiii. 

Erasmus and the Canon of Style 57 

stylist and imitate him, and him alone : so imitate him that 
you may attain his excellence : so attain that you may even 
surpass. This unique master is, of course, Cicero, whom the 
aspirant must so study that the whole being becomes saturated 
with him. 

Erasmus held with Poliziano, for whom he had a profound 
respect, and with Pico. In 1520 he writes to Longolius, the 
purist, warning him against too scrupulous a choice of words 
on the ground that this was incompatible with that higher 
scholarship whose main interest must lie in the thing expressed. 
A self-conscious style was to Erasmus as to Vittorino the mark 
of a second-rate thinker. The true disciple of Cicero is above 
all things careful of the requirements of his subject-matter. 
*' No form of expression can be pronounced elegant which is 
not both congruous to the artist and rightly fitted to the 
subject." " I will deny that name of true disciple to every 
one who does not thoroughly understand that of which he 
writes, who is not sincerely moved by what he understands, who 
does not with exactitude convey what he has thus felt and 
understood'." Such is Erasmus' claim for individuality in ex- 
pression and for the right subordination of style to thought. 

In respect of his own Latinity, Erasmus whilst scrupulous 
in respect of grammatical canons was by no means bound by 
Augustan precedents. His style is always in thorough accord 
with the genius of Roman speech. In its amplitude, elasticity, 
copiousness of vocabulary and of figure, in its antithetical 
skill, its entire freedom from mediaevalisms, and from Teutonic 
modes of expression, it is worthy of high respect as an original 
styled It was this conscious freedom of movement within the 
limits of the Latin tongue that made Erasmus peculiarly con- 
temptuous of the smaller men who, to his seeming, were bent 
on exhibiting Latin as henceforth a dead language. 

' Eras. Op. i. 1026 A, B. 

^ Cp. Sabbadini, Ciceromanismo, p. 59: and M. Pattison in Encycl. 
Brit. Art. "Erasmus" on the Latinity of Erasmus. 

58 Erasmus and the Ciceronians 

The Dialogus Ciceronianus (1527-8) is one of the best 
examples of the Erasmian method of illumination by the way 
of satire. It falls into two main divisions ; a criticism partly 
satirical, partly serious, of the Ciceronian position, and a 
solemn gravamen against the quasi-paganism fostered under 
the cloak of stylistic purism. Nosoponus, the Ciceronian 
interlocutor, lies under a sad affliction. Once he was cheerful, 
handsome, well set-up. But for fourteen years he has been the 
prey of an obsession — a craving to be a new Cicero. For 
seven years he never read a line written by anyone but his 
great exemplar : he saturated his mind and his taste with 
Cicero : he never permitted himself to look upon the portrait 
even of anyone else. In his dreams also Cicero was always 
turning up. During this period he succeeded in compiling 
three weighty dictionaries : the first contained every word 
used by Cicero, its derivation, and a note of every inflexion 
sanctioned by his usage. The next included all phrases, 
figures, metaphors and similes occurring in Cicero ; the third 
and the biggest was a compilation of the rhythmic tags and 
metric feet which the scholar had noticed in the Orations and 
elsewhere. Seven subsequent years were then spent in "imi- 
tation," relying on the dictionaries. Cicero, so these prove, 
used amabam, but not amabatis ; amor but not amores ; 
ornatus but not ornatior. In no emergency would Nosoponus 
employ these unauthorised inflections. By dint of most rigid 
seclusion from all distractions, e.g. by living always in a room 
without windows on to the street, by never marrj'ing, by 
refusing all duties public or private, he had created for himself 
a purely Ciceronian atmosphere. Working very late he con- 
trived in this manner to produce one fair-sized sentence a 
night. This is afterwards reviewed, filed down, or enriched, 
perhaps re-cast. Six such sentences make a letter worthy of 
Cicero. Nosoponus eschews conversation, for the risk of 
drifting out of the right atmosphere is too serious. People 

Aff'ectations of Paganism 59 

said that this was hardly caricature after all : there were plenty 
of scholars in Rome of whom it was a fair portrait'. 

This brings us to the fourth aspect of the Ciceronian 
controversy as it concerns Erasmus. For such men were the 
enemies of sound learning in a wider sense. Their affectation 
of purism was, in not a few of them, bound up with a trick of 
playing at paganism. " Paganitatem profiteri non audemus, 
Ciceroniani cognomen obtendimus''." The Ciceronian was, 
by virtue of his profession, obliged to eschew Christian nomen- 
clature, and thus expended much ingenuity in expressing 
sacred things in classical diction. Jupiter Opt. Max. was his 
equivalent for Deus Pater, Apollo or Aesculapius for Christus, 
Diana for Maria ; diris devovere for excommunicare. Tinctura 
stood for baptism ; victima for the Mass^ Erasmus recalls an 
incident of his stay in Rome (1509). He was present at a 
Good Friday sermon preached before Pope Julius II. In 
purest Ciceronian prose the orator quoted deeds of self- 
sacrifice and patriotism from Greek and Roman myth and 
history : Decius, Curtius, Iphigenia, Socrates were dwelt upon, 
but the Crucifixion was all but forgotten. "As for religion," 
says Erasmus, "there was not a touch of it from beginning to 
end — of sham Cicero more than enough'*." To Erasmus the 
sincere study of Letters had for its end the deepening of man's 
hold upon realities. Antique culture, whether viewed as know- 
ledge or as literature, found its value to the New Age in the aid 
it rendered to life, service and religion. This is what he means 
when he declares: "hue discuntur disciplinae, hue philosophia, 
hue eloquentia, ut Christum intelligamus, ut Christi gloriam 
celebremus. Hie est totius eruditionis et eloquentiae scopus^" 

^ Sabbadini, op. cit. p. 63. 
■■^ Eras. Op. i. 999 K. 

* Pontanus, the Neapolitan scholar, uses genii for angels : umbrae for 
the future life; virgo capitolina for Madonna, and that before Leo X. 

* Nolhac, l^rasme, p. 77- 
' Eras. Op. i. 1026 B. 

6o Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues 

Thus does Erasmus in the field of pure style once more 
affirm his attitude to that problem of the Renaissance which 
concerns the relation of antiquity to the modern world. His 
was what Walter Pater' has called "the old true way of 
Renaissance" whereby ancient material is acted upon by a 
new principle, a modern need. So far, indeed, as language 
was concerned, this principle was in the event applied with 
more completeness than Erasmus imagined. Not in Erasmian 
Latinity — vigorous, individual, modern as it was — but in the 
language of Machiavelli and Castiglione, of Montaigne, of 
Shakespere, of the Authorised Version, was realised that union 
of the Old and the New for which, unknowing what he asked, 
Erasmus prayed ^ 

§ 4. Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues. 

It now becomes necessary to consider the attitude of 
Erasmus towards the vernacular tongues of his day. In doing 
so it will be impossible to confine our view to the question of 
language, which was to Erasmus, as it is to us, but one aspect 
of the larger problem of nationality. His relation to the 

* Pater, Alariiis the Epicurean, ii. 99. 

^ The parallel between the Ciceronian in Letters and the Vitruvian in 
Architecture is both exact and instructive. The great builders, with 
Brunelleschi at their head, who were the first to come under the influence 
of the antique, correspond in their power of free assimilation to such scholars 
as Vergerius or Ambrogio Traversari. The purist Serlio in the i6th century 
insisted that every architect must observe "Vitruvius' rule and most certain 
and infallible directions," since " in every art there is one more learned than 
another to whom such authority is given that his words are fully accepted 
and without doubt believed." Hence " the writings of Vitruvius ought for 
their worthiness to be inviolably observed." But no sooner had this doctrine 
taken root than classicism as an architectural ideal suddenly crumbled, as a 
consequence of its divorce from constructive utility. Serlio is the Longolius 
of the building art; and the influence of the two men is precisely similar in 
their respective spheres. 

His Knowledge of Vernacular Speech 6i 

position of the Italian humanists will also come up for con- 

The knowledge of modern tongues which Erasmus pos- 
sessed has often been discussed. It is curious, however, that 
his own allusions to it leave his biographers' still in doubt as 
to the extent of his ability to understand any native speech 
other than Dutch. We are, however, in no uncertainty con- 
cerning his unwillingness to express himself in anything but 
sound Latin. Dutch he could not fail both to understand and 
to speak. Until he was fourteen years of age, at least, it was 
the language of his home life. We have sufficient allusions to 
such a familiarity with it in later years as is implied in his 
ability to follow the preaching of a Friar or to take part in 

As regards his acquaintance with the speech of Lower 
Germany it can be proved that he had a traveller's knowledge 
— easy enough to acquire for a native of the Netherlands. He 
writes to a correspondent at Lubeck with an apology for his 
Latin : "non fastidio linguae nostratis," but on the ground that 
his German would be a halting performance and might cause 
misunderstanding I A student of the University of Paris for 
ten years and more, could hardly escape a working facility 
in French, even were he less interested in the manners and 
thoughts of his fellow-men than Erasmus. The evidence, 
however, is not copious, and it is mainly indirect. But it is 
impossible to read the letter describing his adventures on the 
road to Paris in February, 1500 (Nicholls, No. 122, Richter, 
No. 144) without concluding that Erasmus was fully competent 
to hold his own incisively with his inn-keeper. Indeed he 
expressly says that the burden of the wrangle fell to him as 
his travelling companion spoke no French. It may, however, 

1 Mr Mark Pattison for instance was certainly wrong in saying : " Erasmus 
had passed nearly all his life in England, France and Germany; he spoke 
not one of those three languages." Etuycl. Brit. Art. "Erasmus." 

^ Eras. Op. iii. 16 D. 

62 Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues 

be gathered from a passage in the De Pueris that Erasmus had 
wrestled not happily with the pronunciation'. 

On the other hand he was much less at home with English. 
His first visit to this country was very short and was passed 
wholly in learned society. His later visits belong to a period 
when he had made abstention from modem tongues a prin- 
ciple. In the house of Sir Thomas More he found the 
conversational use of Latin, if not the normal practice, at least 
one gladly adopted in presence of so distinguished a guest. 
VVarham, in presenting him to the living of Adlington, relieved 
him of residence expressly on grounds of his ignorance of the 
language of his parishioners. The same indifference marked 
his attitude to Italian. The learned environment in which he 
spent his Italian sojourn at Bologna, Venice or Rome pre- 
cluded any need for facility in what he would have called the 
corrupt dialects of the peninsula. He rebuffed the grave 
Ruccellai with a blunt " Surdo loqueris " when the Florentine 
addressed him in the Tuscan speech which in his eyes was in 
no way less noble than its mother-Latin. Of Spanish he 
probably acquired some slight knowledge from intercourse 
with officials in the Netherlands, although the evidence of it 
is very sparse. To Charles V and his Court Spanish was the 
customary language and Erasmus was in an honorary sense a 
member of that Emperor's Council. 

Such evidence, however, does not close the question. It 
is clear, for instance, that the author of the Morine Encomium 
and of the Colloquies was one able to observe acutely by ear as 
well as by eye as he went on his quiet way through the world. 
Only sharp, clear-cut perception of what was passing could 
have afforded Erasmus that power of moving freely amidst the 
facts of common life, that insight into popular foibles and 
superstitions, which gave the edge to his satire. Again, 
Erasmus had something of the feeling of the philologist for 
parallel forms and for etymologies; he saw that the three 
^ Er. Op. i. 501 F. Infra, p. 199 s.f. 

Their Uselessness in Education 63 

Romance tongues had grown out of Latin, and that as a con- 
sequence they might be, scientifically, not without interest to a 
scholar^ We find express allusion to the employment of the 
modem languages in this manner. 

When, however, we turn to the use of the vernacular 
tongues for purposes of literature or education we are upon 
more definite ground. The popular speech has, and ought to 
have, no claim to be regarded as a fit instrument of literary ex- 
pression. To the more rigorous humanists the mere suggestion 
of such a claim was a standing cause of irritation. It is one 
thing to accept as established facts the several dialects of the 
common people and to use them when need compels. But 
nothing justifies the abandonment of a universal, highly- 
developed and historic speech, such as is Latin, for a series 
of local, rudimentary and obscure jargons ^ For these are as 
an Oscan or Umbrian dialect, or the parlance of the Suburra, 
to the finished diction of Cicero and Vergil. Nor can any 
beyond the most meagre employment be made of such in 
education. For beginners in Latin it is permitted to set the 
subject for composition in the vernacular*: but if a modern 
language must be learnt it can be picked up. The Strassburg 
School Ordinance of 1528— strictly Erasmian in spirit — afifirms 
"Vernacula lingua loqui in ludo nostro piaculum est, atque 
non nisi plagis expiatur." A modern language is impossible 
as a school-subject in humanist eyes. To take one reason 
alone — a decisive one. Teaching demands before all things 
fixity, definiteness, uniformity in its material. In the depart- 
ment of language Latin and Greek provide precisely those 
qualities : orthography, accidence and syntax are determined. 
The modern dialects have none of these indispensable notes. 
It may be safely assumed that Erasmus never contemplated a 
day when English, French or German could attain the stage of 

^ De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 167. 

' Erasmus wonders why Albert Dlirer wrote in German : Op. i. 928 c. 

' De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 170. 

64 Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues 

an organically developed speech, worthy of a true literary 
status, and that he viewed with distrust the efforts of Poliziano 
and Bembo to secure the recognition of a standard Italian 
tongue. ' 

It is strictly pertinent to note, in the next place, the con- 
tempt which Erasmus avows for popular stories, folk-lore, 
and traditional tales of national heroes. He especially depre- 
cates their use with young children who should rather find 
their imaginations satisfied with moralised stories from antiquity 
or the Old Testament. Erasmus thus again reveals his lack 
of concern for the elements of national life, and his ignorance 
of the true basis of national culture. He does not see' that 
the classical spirit implies a respect for the methods of antiquity, 
for to the Greek and to the Roman education was built on 
national traditions in their local setting. To Erasmus the 
Arthurian cycle, to take one instance, is but trivial nonsense. 
It is not true to fact, not morally edifying, and above all not 
clothed in notable language. In this important aspect of the 
phrase, the historic sense was lacking to every strict humanist : 
for to hardly one of them does the national history, unless it 
be identical with that of the classical ages, make any appeal. 
The attitude of Erasmus reminds us of that of Aeneas Sylvius 
to whom it seemed futile in a prince to waste time over the 
story of the nation whom he was called upon to govern. 
" Beware," he writes to Ladislas, the young king of Hungary, 
"of wasting time over such a subject as the history of Bohemia 
or the history of Hungary. For such would be but the pro- 
ductions of mere ignorant chroniclers, a farrago of nonsense 
and lies, destitute of attraction in form, in style, or in 
grave reflections." Vives, the friend and correspondent of 
Erasmus, is almost alone amongst humanists in finding a 

^ Yet Erasmus had realised this when, only a year earlier, he had 
urged in the Ciceronianus that true Ciceronian imitation implied obedience 
to the spirit of Cicero and to the methods which he himself pursued. 
Supra, p. 54. 

Erasmus and Nationalism 65 

place for Monstrelet, De Commines, and Froissart in historical 
study ^ 

Yet Erasmus, as a man of practical sense, accepted the 
modern State as a fact, and service to the community as one 
of the main ends of Man, and therefore of education. Good 
government is the duty of prince, noble, and burgher alike. 
" The father who neglects the training of his son is guilty of 
offence against the fatherland." "Children are born for the 
State and for God " : and all sound education will fit them for 
their place in Society and in the Family, The ultimate utility 
of the higher learning lies in the service which it enables a 
citizen to render to the country of his inheritance. But we 
must not interpret the claims of fatherland too strictly. " Love 
of fatherland is good, but it is more philosophic to regard 
things and human beings in such a way that this world may be 
looked upon as the common fatherland of all." We should ask 
" not where, but how nobly we spend our lives." This is con- 
formable to his reply to the offer of the citizenship of Zurich, 
"I wish to be a citizen of the whole world, not of a single city*." 
The " Respublica Litteraria," as Hutten termed it, was his 

The reconciliation of the practical aims of Erasmus with 
his indifference to the essential characteristics of the modern 
world, and with his positive rejection of the concept of 
nationalism in education, is not easy to find. Erasmus was of 
German stock, and was proud of it. Much as he admired 
Italian learning he had no yearnings for a life to be spent at 
Rome. But he was dominated by the ideal of a universal 
culture, within which racial differences would sink into due 
subordination. This ideal, as we have seen, was intimately 
bound up with the revival of antiquity. Now, for a hundred 
years, an extraordinary — almost inexplicable — restoration of 
the knowledge of the ancient world had been in progress. 

^ Vives, De Disciplinis, p. 385. 
* Eras. Oj). iii. 757 D. 

W. c 

66 Erasrmts and the Vernacular Tongues 

Both in Art and in Literature the new time had absorbed the 
fashion and spirit of the old. Why should not the same 
transfer be possible in respect of Speech ? The Gaul of " the 
Province," the Lombard, the Northman offer examples ot 
acceptance of a new tongue. Given a common culture, in 
harmony with a common Church, a common speech might, 
nay must, follow, if the chiefs of learning were in earnest. 
The Church and the professions had proved that in specific 
regions of thought and activity such a step to universality was 
attainable. To Erasmus and those who thought with him the 
problem was of deepest moment in the interests of civilisation. 
On the other hand, Erasmus urges the use of the vernacular in 
preaching, for only thus can the faith stir the emotions and 
active impulses. It is, one may say, a point of Christian duty 
for a churchman, whose functions lie in that direction, to stoop 
to acquire the popular tongue. Yet he does not perceive the 
essential note of the Lutheran conflict — the yearnings of the 
Germanic self-consciousness, and the claim for the expression 
of it in language, and in ecclesiastical order and independence. 
He is blind, also, to the fact that in Italy both a language 
and a literature, independent of Latin, were growing up and 
that this development was fostered by certain humanists of 
undoubted rank. The plea for Italian was urged by no less a 
scholar than Bembo, who, quite consistently, was at the same 
time the leader of the Ciceronian purists. On the other hand, 
the best statement of the case for the Latinists came from the 
pen of Franciscus Floridus\ an intimate friend of Erasmus, 
and like him a keen anti-Ciceronian. It will be of interest to 
summarise his argument, as expressing the judgment of the 
group of scholars of whom Erasmus is chief. The date is 

^ On Floridus, cp. Sabbadini, in Giomale Star. d. Letteratura Ital., viii. 
P- .?33' He had been ardently engaged in defence of Latin for some time 
before Erasmus' death. The passage here summarised is from his Apologia^ 
p. 105. 

The Argument of Floridus 67 

Floridus deplores the apparently increasing use of the 
Italian language. Some scholars indeed profess to regard it as 
worthy of the same care and elaboration as that which the 
Greeks and Romans bestowed upon their own speech. Such 
a monstrous blindness to the light reminds us of the Scythian 
or the Mede, and renders Italy a derision in the eyes of 
Spaniards, Frenchmen, Englishmen, or Germans. For in all 
those countries men of learning prize ever more and more the 
inheritance of the ancient tongues. It is sheer perversity to 
compare, as some do, the lyrics of Petrarch to the hexameters 
of Vergil, or the light and easy style of Boccaccio to the 
grave periods of Cicero ^ 

The chief argument which he finds for the adoption of the 
vernacular is this : the language of the home and the nursery 
must be the language of our subsequent life : for such a 
language, being our native speech, will be that of the majority of 
our fellows. Now the argument from the majority carries no 
weight with a wise man ; " for the custom or convenience of 
ten thousand hinds is not to be weighed against those of a 
single man of learning." 

The pleas for the vulgar tongue — Floridus is an Italian and 
has the Italian language always in mind — are met by a series 
of arguments. First, the contention from usage is invalid 
when we consider the actual facts. There is no such thing as 
"the Italian language." A Florentine travels to Apulia or to 
Naples ; his Tuscan speech is to the natives of the Kingdom 
as the speech of a Tyrian or a Bedouin. In Sardinia or in 
Sicily he would run risk of being locked up as a lunatic at 
large. Let him go farther afield : if he speak Tuscan in 
Germany, France, or Spain he has a crowd after him, and is 

^ Cp. the attitude of certain humanists of the previous century towards 
the great Tuscans. Niccoli asks, "Quos tu mihi Dantes, inquit, quos 
Petrarcas, quos Boccatios ? Nam quid est in illis quod aut admirandum aut 
laudandum cuiquam videri debeat ? " L. Aretini, Z)m/<7f«j, p. 60. Sahitati 
regretted that Dante had not written in Latin. Ibid. p. 59. 


68 Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues 

asked if he has lost his dancing bear. But Latin is of 
universal currency. Apply the facts to literature instead of to 
travel. On what grounds should " a nation's exploits be 
recorded in that nation's tongue " ? If facts are worth relating 
they should be narrated for all places and for all times : not 
through a medium which is current for some hundred square 
miles : Florence, Lucca, Arezzo, Siena each has its standard 
idiom. How then is the vernacular to "save labour" to the 
learner ? 

Again, the Italian dialects are unfixed, imperfect, and 
unequal to the varied demands of a literature. Consider the 
position of Dante. He writes in a language still fluid and 
uncertain, in a style which cannot be called finished, in a 
word, in a medium unequal to the distinction of his subject. 
Boccaccio's prose for similar reasons is read without pleasure. 
Petrarch, on the other hand, seems to have reached the high- 
water mark in Italian verse, but he uses it only to handle 
trivial themes : whilst Ariosto — a first-rate Latinist, we must 
remember — cannot be said in his Orlando to equal even the 
second or third rank of Roman poets. As to serious com- 
position in history or oratory there is none in Italian 
(Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Castiglione notwithstanding). 
Floridus then criticises t.he vulgar tongue from the point of 
view of its origin. Italian is the quintessence of barbarism, 
that barbarism which overthrew civilisation itself in our own 
land. How prefer a language whose roots lie in the invasions 
of Goth, Vandal, and Lombard ? What elegance, what elabor- 
ation can be looked for from such a source ? To take but two 
instances : the contrast between classical metres and that 
which passes for metre in ItaUan ; and the decay of inflections. 
The Scyth and Numidian may do without these aids to exact 
expression, can civilised man? There are those who would 
drive out of language every word which cannot be traced back 
to the barbarous enemies of our race. Language and literature 
are, both of them, works of human skill and not unconscious 

Their Defects as Literary Instruments 69 

products of nature'. Further, Italian is avowedly poor in 
vocabulary, and needs to be copiously enriched. Why, if 
Latin has to be thus relied upon, not recognise the fact and 
use it as the current tongue as it stands? 

If scholars who cultivate both the ancient and the modern 
tongues imagine that they gain repute thereby they are in error. 
They must know that their fame rests upon their skill in 
classical letters, and upon that alone. Perhaps, however, they 
only wish to prove to the world how easy it is for a truly 
learned man — who has spent twenty years in attaining 
eminence in Greek and Latin — to be an " Italian scholar " in 
a couple of months. 

The points therefore upon which the humanist argument 
turns are these. The vernaculars lack fixity, elaboration, and 
universality — the latter even in a single country. They are not 
adaptable to the manifold needs of literature; they lack serious 
gravity ; they demand no effort in acquisition, and that which 
can be picked up by mere use or instinct is hardly " human " 
so much as "animal." They are the products of barbarism, 
and are barbarous by nature. They are local, limited in 
range, without authority. 

An argument which scarcely appears in the criticism of 
Floridus, but which was always of weight with the humanist, 
was that the vernacular lacks the element of "eternity*." It 
was a standing principle amongst scholars that nothing worthy 
of perpetuation might be expressed otherwise than in fine 
Latinity. And closely allied with this was the deep-rooted 
desire of the man of the Renaissance to find a place in the 
elect company of the great names of old. How was this 

^ It is important to note that the first grammar of the Italian tongue 
was published in 1516; the work of Giovanni Fortunio : Regole Gram- 
tnaticali della Volga r Lingtia. 

* Filelfo, for instance, writing in 1477 says of Tuscan : "hoc scribendi 
more utimur iis in rebus quarum memoriam nolumus transferre ad posteros." 
Cp. Voigt, Wiederbelebimg, ii. 422. 

yo Erasmus and the Vernacular Tongues 

possible if men of Letters should permit uncouth, local 
dialects to supersede the dignity of the universal speech? 
That nationalism in politics as against the Empire, in religion 
as against the Church of Rome, in language and in literature 
as against the classics — one movement in several aspects — was 
the abiding note of the modern world — this was in no way 
realised by Erasmus. 

But the most effective pleading for the new tongue was, 
notwithstanding, the production of one of the chief of the 
Latinists, Pietro Bembo. It need cause no surprise ; for 
Bembo had done his best ^to relegate Latin to the category of 
the dead languages. His Dialogue on the Lingua Volgare was 
written in 15 12. He turns the argument from dialectic variety 
by pleading for a standard or classical Italian to be established 
on the authority of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. The 
Dialogue contains also an alternative canon — viz., that the 
Italian tongue be accounted that which is accepted in the 
Court of Rome', the idiom, inflectional system and pronun- 
ciation commonly understood by ecclesiastics and men of 
affairs gathered at the Vatican from all parts of Italy. We 
here come upon the first deliberate effort to erect a rule of 
strictly classical Italian upon a norm against which no charge 
of provincialism could be raised. The Dialogue is in large 
part occupied by a critical study of the material out of which 
an authoritative grammar could be compiled. Bembo was 
wont to complain that Fortunio had pirated this matter — from 
MS. copies circulating in Rome — and issued it in his Kegole 
as his own. 

The substantial argument of Bembo is contained in the 
following passage^, which may fitly close this chapter : 

" II Volgare e a noi piu vicino ; quando si vede che nel 
Volgare tutti noi tutta la vita dimoriamo; il che non aviene del 
Latino : si come k Romani huomini era ne buoni tempi piu 

^ Bembo, Delia Volgar Lingua (1525) f". xii. 
2 Bembo, op, cit. f°. iiii. 

The Argument of Bentbo yi 

vicina la Latina favella che la Greca ; conciosia cosa che nella 
Latina essi tutti nascevano, et quella insieme col latte dalle 
nutrici loro beeano et in essa dimoravano tutti gli anni loro 
communemente, dove la Greca essi apprendevano per lo piu 
gia grandi et usavonla rade volte, et molti de loro peraventura 
ne r usavano ne 1' apprendevano giamai. II che a noi aviene 
della Latina ; che non dalle nutrici nelle cuUe, ma da maestri 
nelle Schuole, et non tutti, anzi pochi, 1' apprendiamo, et presa 
non a ciascun hora la usiamo, ma di rado, et alcuna volta 
non mai. Cosi questo anchora piu oltre ; che a noi la 
Volgar lingua non solamente vicina si dee dire che ella sia 
ma natia et propria : et la Latina straniera. Che si come i 
Romani due lingue haveano, una propria et naturale, et questa 
era la Latina, 1' altra straniera, et quella era la Greca ; cosi noi 
due favelle possediamo altresi : 1' una propria et naturale et 
domestica, che e la Volgare; istrana et non naturale 1' altra, che 
e la Latina." 



§ I. The General Purpose of Education. 

It results from the considerations laid down in the last 
chapter that the ideal of culture as understood by Erasmus was 
ultimately social in trend. The uplifting of the standard of 
religion and conduct in the community was the motive which 
gave urgency to his plea for knowledge. He saw, moreover, 
that the cause of religion and conduct was intimately bound up 
with better political and social conditions. " Barbarism " — the 
term so common with him — implied not only superstition and 
ignorance of sound learning, but cruelty, reckless war, and bad 
government. The one remedy for this universal darkness was 
the union of enlightened Christianity and the wisdom of the 
ancients. Erasmus realised the mediaeval order as a firmly 
compacted whole, whose amelioration could be attained only 
by a force operating upon and transforming the entire fabric. 
That force was learning. 

Now it is an invariable law that the accepted ideals of the 
adult generation shape its educational aims; that the school- 
master obeys and does not lead. It was inevitable, then, that 
wherever Humanism gave its impress to a community or to 
a group a speedy effect thereof would be manifested in the 
School. It was not enough for the citizens of Florence and 

The General Purpose of Education jT) 

Venice to find themselves emancipated from darkness, their 
children must from the very first be saved from its shadow. In 
the belief in the importance of a cultural ideal is involved of 
necessity a corresponding conviction of the need of a new 

The organised life of the civilised community is to Erasmus 
the only life worth living : his educational aim, therefore, is 
a social aim. It does not stop short with the perfection of the 
individual, the preparation of a self-contained life. When he 
speaks of the knowledge of Christ and His glory as " totius 
eruditionis scopusV' he by no means implies that the end of 
right training is personal salvation. He has given in the De 
Civilitate Morum puerilmm his description of education in 
definite terms : " Sicut prima (pars), ita praecipua, est, ut te- 
nellus animus imbibat pietatis seminaria, proxima ut liberales 
disciplinas et amet et perdiscat, tertia est, ut ad vitae officia 
instruatur, quarta est ut a primis statim aevi rudimentis civilitati 
morum adsuescat^" Now, as viewed by Erasmus, each of these 
aims is bound up with the rest, just as each points to a joint 
factor in social well-being. " Piety and Good Letters " — Sturm's 
sapiens et eloquens pietas — a union which adds wisdom to faith 
and reverence to learning, stand opposed to ignorance and 
wickedness. It can be amply shown from Erasmus' writings 
that he regarded all that supplies men with higher motives and 
worthier interests, that affords warnings and examples from the 
past, as a religious force. The religious end of education there- 
fore was hardly viewed by him as a thing apart. Everything 
that enlightens ultimately raises the individual and purifies the 
social order. In spite of uninformed criticism, the classical 

' From Ciceronianus (1528): Op. i. p. 1026 B. 

- De Civ. Morum (1526): Op. i. p. 1033 B, c. Another definition is 
given in Colioquia, Op. i. p. 653: " Tria mihi curae sunt, ut proficiam in 
probitate morum. Dein, si quid nequeam, certe tuear illibatam innocen- 
tiam ac famam. Postremo paro mihi bonas literas ac disciplinas in quovis 
vitae genere usui futuras." 

74 *The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

literatures, rightly handled, notably served this purpose. In 
the training of the young we find that Erasmus lays little stress 
on observances or on religious dogma, but much on personal 
piety and the elements of Christian faith and practice. 

Next, Erasmus brings into prominence the claim of the 
State or Community to the services of its members, and for 
such service the child must be fitted by education. Such an 
end is strictly in accord with antique ideals. Parents are urged 
to be careful of their duty to the fatherland; to neglect the 
right training of the child is to ignore this obligation. A brave 
and efficient citizen is the gift which a father owes to his own 
city. In the same way the prince and the noble are exhorted 
to qualify their sons by sound education for their grave re- 
sponsibilities. Beyond this, when Erasmus dwells upon the 
need of courtesy and good m'anners he is considering a man as a 
member of Society — a dim reflex of that social distinction which 
is embodied by Castiglione in // Cortegiano. In Germany, at 
least, this was of no slight importance amongst the ends of 

The family, again, has its claims. By education the boy 
must learn how to bear himself as a dutiful son, able and 
willing to take upon himself part of the burdens of his parents. 
His distinction brings joy and credit to the home ; just as its 
grace and charm are increased by the skill or learning of the 
daughters. Sir Thomas More's household and that of Pirck- 
heimer are more than once quoted by Erasmus to prove his 
contention that a woman's life is made more useful, by serious 
education, in each of the capacities that may fall to her. The 
home, moreover, gains in dignity by the share which the father 
takes in the children's training. The Roman parents at the 
best period never resigned their direct concern for this to the 
exclusive charge of another. 

Erasmus lays little stress on the professional aspect of 
education. But he knows that a churchman, a theological 
student, an administrator, a landed proprietor, a statesman are 

The Ends of Education 7 5 

all made more efificient in their own spheres by sound learning'. 
Erasmus particularly inveighs against a common type of parent 
who will accumulate estate for a son with untiring zeal, but 
who is wholly careless as to the education which alone can fit 
him to govern it. It is, he urges, a profound mistake to sup- 
pose that training for practical life is to be won by actual 
experience of life itself^. On the other hand he declares that 
preparation for a career ought not to be made subordinate to 
purely literary attainment. Here, however, he is referring to 
adult life ; and the warning is just a protest against neglect of 
duty for devotion to dilettantism and self-culture. 
^ Yet it must be carefully noted that the social end is to be 
attained by the way of development of individuality through 
liberal training. There are not two educations : training re- 
garded as preparation for social service does not differ in 
substance or in method from the education of the individual. 
The difference lies in the application. Up to a certain limit, 
which Erasmus placed at the i8th year, and Elyot somewhat later, 
education should be uniform for all. Then supervenes the period 
of gradual specialisation. But not even then may literature be 
wholly abandoned in favour of professional studies. What is 
desirable is that such studies should take the form, partly at 
least, of concentration upon those aspects of letters which sub- 
serve each particular pursuit. Law, Theology, Teaching will 
all acquire an element which is "liberal " from such a method 
of enquiry. 

^ Strictly in Erasmus' vein is the claim for this effect of erudition made 
in the Privilegittm of the royal Printing-press granted by Francis I to 
Robert Estienne. " We are persuaded that those sound studies will give 
birth in our kingdom to theologians vi'ho shall teach the sacred doctrines 
of religion ; to magistrates who shall administer justice without partiality 
and in the spirit of public equity ; and finally to skilled administrators, 
the lustre of a State, who will be capable of sacrificing their private interest 
to affection for the public good.... Such are among the benefits that may 
reasonably be looked for from sound studies, and from them almost exclu- 
sively." Quoted from Miss Lowndes' translation, Motttaigne, p. 24. 

2 This is in part the argument of the De Pueris: infra, p. 191, § 12. 

76 *The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

We may perhaps doubt whether Erasmus had reached a 
clear reconciliation of social and individual aims in education. 
At one time he speaks as though the best way of rendering 
service to the community lies in developing one's own person- 
ality. At another, he is more conscious of the risks attaching to 
a bold claim for free individual expansion, and to the exclusive 
temper of the self-absorbed scholar. Yet this is certainly true. 
He felt, and he expressed, the full strength of the reaction 
against the mediaeval University training, which was primarily 
concerned with professions of Law, Medicine, and Theology. 
Erasmus has the distinctive note of the Humanist, that he is 
first of all a teacher of liberal disciplines, upon which when 
maturity is reached technical knowledge may be superimposed. 
Sir Thomas Elyot expresses this position, interpreting Erasmus, 
as he so often does, to Englishmen: "pure and excellent 
learning, if it be translated to another study of a more gross 
quality vanisheth and cometh to nothing." Wherefore, he goes 
on, " if children were continually retained in the right study of 
very {i.e. sound) philosophy " — which is the Humanist sapientia, 
or eruditio — " until they passed the age of 2 1 years, and were 

then set to the Laws they should undoubtedly become men 

of so excellent wisdom that throughout all the world should be 
found in no commonweal more noble counsellors'." This is 
said in the truest spirit of Humanism. 

It may be asked at this point whether the position thus 
defined is consistent with the overweening importance assigned 
to eloquence by Erasmus and all the other masters of the 
Revival ? Was not " oratory " largely a professional aptitude — 
for Church, Court, or Diplomacy? In considering this it is 
necessary to recall the origin of that ideal of the completely 
educated man, the "orator." It reached the Italian Humanists 
mainly through Quintilian. It preceded, in the history of the 
Renaissance, the ideal of the "Courtier." As understood 
by Quintilian the perfect "Orator" was the noble type of 

^ The Governoitr, i. p. I41. 

The Three Factors of Human Nature jj 

publicist, a combination of personal presence, of virtue, and of 
learning, as well as of eloquence. He was the good man, the 
highly-informed man, trained in oratory : each of these factors 
was essential to the complete product. Both "Orator" and 
"Courtier" came to signify to Italian society of the 15th and 
1 6th centuries the full range of qualities which should mark 
in* a modern community the perfect man of the world — scholar, 
man of affairs, man of courtesy. In this way it happened, in 
the 15th century as in the first, that what were, to begin with, 
the characteristics of the highest professional type were trans- 
ferred to the general ideal of higher education. So in ancient 
Rome the training of the " Orator " was the education of 
hundreds of young men who had no thought of becoming 
advocates or debaters : and in modern Italy or England the 
maxims of the " Courtier " were eagerly studied by young men 
who would never approach a Court. To Erasmus the training 
of a gentleman was identical with an education in learned 

§ 2. The Three Factors of Human Nature. 

The great Italian educationalists of the Revival built up 
their curriculum upon a union of Roman precedents with the 
courtly education of the later Middle Age. They took account, 
therefore, of each side of human personality. Erasmus, how- 
ever, held a somewhat different position. In his view, that side 
of development which concerned physical excellence was wholly 
subordinate. The absorption in sport and arms which he notes 
as characteristic of the upper ranks of Teutonic society he 
regards as a serious hindrance to intellectual advance. 'Gross,' 
'boorish,' 'cruel' are the epithets which seem to spring naturally 
to Erasmus' lips when he contemplates the average parent of 
the land-holding class in Germany. There was, to Erasmus, 
much risk in pressing the claims of the body in education. In 
Italy it was far otherwise. We know that feudalism had left 
but little impress on the society of the Renaissance ; and the 

yS The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

climate and the conditions of town life there rendered vigorous 

physical activity a needful discipline. Apart from which the 

social graces filled a large place in personal distinction. But 

1 fXo Erasmus it is enough that children be kept in health, for the 

\/^' body is but a means, an instrument, and has no true excellence 

/ beyond that. Erasmus, we do not forget, had been a monk ; 

neither by aptitude nor disposition had he any inclination to 

physical skill. 

Passing to the second and third constituents of human 
personality, the mind and the spirit, the point of view of 
» Erasmus has been already outlined. Ingenium or inie/lecius, 
^>- as the seat of ratio, or active reasoning, is the chief difiFerentia 
^ of Man. But the teacher may not regard this faculty as exist- 
ing independently of the religious instinct. For the term which 
expresses the highest product of ingenium, viz., philosophia, 
covers both knowledge, conduct, and religion. Philosophia is 
wisdom applied to life : the opposite is stultitia, which is 
ignorance applied to life'. The borderland oi pietas and viores 
is indefinable ; and the soundest forms of entditio inevitably 
develop that bonus animus whose expression is pietas. It is 
impossible to realise the Erasmian concept of the relation of 
wisdom to spiritual well-being unless we grasp clearly his notion 
of eruditio (or sapie?ttia) as "learning in use," or "wisdom 
interpreted for living." It was something quite other than 
" research " in our modern sense. Hence (though the words 
are those of his intimate friend Sadoleto), " devotion to philo- 
sophy serves as the best preparation for all sides of honourable 
action, and at the same time brings man nearer to God." The 
education of "the spirit," therefore, to the earnest humanist, 

^ Op. i. 497 E: "quid est hominis maxime proprium? Juxta rationem 
vivere. Quid est perniciosissimum ? Stultitia." On the other hand ratio 
may lead to harm, for eruditio without virtue as its end does hurt to the 
character. But if the consensus of the wisdom of mankind is rightly 
applied — i.e. if education is sound — good and not evil may be counted 
upon as the result. 

The Erasmian Psychology 79 

and so to Erasmus, was the natural crown of all sound training; 
it did not demand a special section of the curriculum to itself. 
That Erasmus was by nature practical rather than devotional 
in his concept of religion, that " in things of the spirit " con- 
duct mattered more to him than dogmatic equipment, that 
mysticism meant little to him, are undeniable. But it is pro- 
foundly untrue to insinuate, as his opponents often did in his 
lifetime, and certain critics have done since, that his perception 
of the religious factor in personality, and consequently in educa- 
tion, was feeble in itself and insincerely held. 

There remains to be considered the function of education 
in respect of this training of character and intellect. The 
psychology of Erasmus has never been very carefully examined. 
It was mainly identical with that of Plutarch, and has therefore 
much in common with the Aristotelian analysis. The three 
factors in mental activity are Naiura, ratio, us7is sive exerci- 
tatio\ By natura Erasmus understands an innate capacity, 
both moral and intellectual. These blank capacities are 
affected from outside by experience, notably by disciplina and by 
institiitio or instruction. On the intellectual side such instruc- 
tion is by the way of information orderly presented, or scientia. 
On the moral side it comes through example, warning, or 
advice, whether drawn from books or persons. Ratio is the 
thinking endowment — its organic relation to natura is never 
defined — by which the learner judges, orders, and stores up in 
memory, external knowledge, and by which the teacher exhibits 
his matter in right method. In education, therefore, ratio is 
at once the enlightened reasoning of the teacher operating 

1 Christ. Mat rim., Op. v. 710D: " Naturam voco aptitudinem quandam 
ad discendum quod traditur. Ratio praeceptis judical quid expetendum, 
quid fugiendum. Usus ducit in habitum id quod praescriptum est." Cp. 
De Pueris, infra, p. 191, § 11 s.f. On the Aristotelian doctrine which 
Erasmus has in mind in this analysis cp. Ethics, i. 7. 9, and Burnet, 
Aristotle on Education, p. 27; " the fracticat life of the rational part of 
us" is the differentiating function of man. Cp. Becher, Erasmus, p. 32. 

So The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

upon the learner, and the active reason of the learner reaching 
out to meet it. The term is often used by Erasmus in either 
sense. But invariably it implies faculty in act. Ratio is the 
peculiar quality of Man : " ratio facit hominem," as he ex- 
plains; "ratio ducit naturam'." Usus is practice, at school or 
in life, in aptitudes acquired, and the application to circum- 
stances of knowledge assimilated. A boy applies a rule of 
grammar in composition ; a statesman a lesson from history ; 
both by virtue of usus. 

Such are the definitions of the principal terms employed. 
Now tiatura, the mental self, comes into existence with very 
few instincts, with no innate ideas, but with large capacities ; 
lower animals, on the other hand, possess sharply-defined and 
highly-developed instincts, but slight power of advance beyond 
these. This marks man's superiority and proves the over- 
whelming importance of education. The metaphors borrowed 
by Erasmus to express this abstract capacity for taking form 
are various : the ploughed but unsown field ; the twig pliant 
and as yet unshaped ; soft wax or clay, and others^. 

This capacity reveals at a very early stage certain tendencies, 
notably to memory, to activity, and to imitation : it is intensely 
receptive : its absorptive powers work upon good or evil 
material with equal avidity. Hence the need for profitable 
occupation from the very first, that room be not left for evil 
influences, always ready to encroach upon the empty chambers 
of child-nature^. It is the peculiar function of the mother to 
" shelter the nursling from wrong impression." Hence Erasmus 
^x< acutely sets aside enquiries as to the age at which education 

y ^ It need not be pointed out how defective is the analysis of ratio 

presented by Erasmus, who leaves in obscurity his view of the place of 
the imagination and the emotions. However, Erasmus always moves 
more easily in the sphere of practical aims than in that of theory, so that 
in dealing directly with educational method his precepts are sounder than 
his psychology. Ratio may often be best translated by Training, cp. p. 197. 

* Cp. Tdgel, Pdiiag. Ansch., p. 37. 

' "Sapiens industria parentum occupat naturam." Op. i. 497 E. 

The Power of Education 8 1 

should begin. From birth, nay before it, the manifold opera- 
tion of nurture and environment is at work. It is not a ques- 
tion as to the 7th year or the 5th or the 3rd, as the authorities 
propound it ; from the first day of his existence the child's 
education has begun. 

But Natura includes another factor besides abstract general 
capacity for development : it contains a special quality which 
varies with each individual and constitutes the basis of person- 
ality ^ This individual quality is originally but a capacity for 
receiving a special bent from external forces : it may be due 
to inheritance, but when once recognised it may respond in 
marvellous fashion to careful education. Training, therefore, 
is all important. Nature gives potentialities, education trans- 
forms them into realities. " Efficax res est natura, sed banc 
vincit efficacior institutio." " Homines, mihi crede, non nas- 
cuntur sed finguntur''^." Further, "Educatio superat omnia." 
By training we may eradicate evil tendency due to heredity ; 
but bad education will extinguish a bent to higher things. 
Moreover, and we here reach the climax of the Erasmian 
optimistic view of Man, we have in Natura a capacity which 
in virtue of its .divine origin is "apt for reason," prone to 
obedience, and therefore capable by training of indefinite 
advance. Nay, by education, diligently and skilfully directed, 
the rudis massa of the nursling may be moulded into the visible 
image of God^. 

It is a sanguine view of the possibilities of education. But 
we must remember, first, that the Erasmian concept includes 
the Platonic view of the function of Nurture — that unconscious 

^ De Pueris, infra, § 16, § 29s.f., and § 25 s.f. Just as an ox or an 
ass is put to the plough or the pack-saddle, so the dullard must for his 
own sake be treated as fit only for the farm or work-shop. Again, there 
are children whose bent lies towards Music, Arithmetic or Geography. 
" Nature " ought to be followed in such cases. In Discipline also the 
same holds good : infra, p. 205, § 24. 

* Op. i. 493 B, infra, pp. 184, 186, §§ 4 and 7. 

* De Pueris, infra, p. 187, § 7 s.f. Cp. Becher, Erasmus, p. 12. 

w. 6 

82 The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

presentation and absorption of impressions, moral, intellectual 
and aesthetic, which is the true note of Greek culture, and the 
conspicuous absence of which is the crucial defect of popular 
educational opinion in modern England. In the next place, it 
is abundantly clear that Erasmus did not identify education 
with literary instruction in a narrow sense. There is much in 
his view of morality which presages Herbart's concept of the 
dependence of conduct upon the "circle of thought." Stultitia 
is moral, not less than intellectual, shortcoming : just as a wide 
range of interests lifts the mind above unworthy preoccupa- 
tions. Hence instruction {eruditio, itistitiitio) is a most compre- 
hensive force, operating upon a free will, whose determinations 
are easily fixed in the direction of reasonable action. This 
conviction of the influence of the human intelligence in mould- 
ing the character of men is not peculiar to the Humanist. The 
typical man of the world of that age was Machiavelli : and 
he arrives, though from an opposite standpoint, at the same 
generalisation. " All that have reasoned on civil government, 
and all -history, prove that it is necessary that he who frames 
a Commonwealth and ordains laws in it should pre-suppose 
that all men have their bent to ill-doing : that they desire to 
practise the wickedness of their minds whenever opportunity 
serves." Hence, he continues, follows the necessity of Laws : 
for Laws make men good, seeing that by laws Education is 
framed, and by Education men, though naturally evil, are 
gradually trained to set examples of virtue in the State. Thus 
the man of Letters and the man of Affairs agree : innate good- 
ness (Erasmus) or innate wickedness (Machiavelli), fostered 
(Erasmus), or checked (Machiavelli), by education, produces 
notable virtue. That 'virtue' to each of the two thinkers meant 
a different ideal does not affect the argument : in both cases 
contribution to the well-being of the community is the prime 
content, and in both the determining force is Education'. 

^ Cp. Machiavelli, Discorsi, i. 3. 

The Argumetit for Small Schools 83 

§ 3. Limitations of the Educational Ideal. 

This broad and liberal view of the aim of Education repre- 
sents the essential principle of humanism, and, except on the 
side of the culture of the body, does not differ in type from 
that of the great Italians from Vergerius to Sadoleto. But, in 
the process of application of ideals to practice, the limitations 
imposed by social and historical circumstance call for careful 

j- First, Erasmus laid it down, with ample reason, that his 
standard of efficiency demanded either a small school con- 
ducted by brilliant scholars or the method of home tuition. 
The latter alternative depended inevitably upon the nature of 
the home in question : where there is right example, and due 
respect for learning, private tutorial instruction may be the best 
choice. Under no circumstances was a Religious House a fit 
seminary for the young: schola aut publica aid nulla^ was his 
doctrine. But endowed or civic schools competent to the 
lofty functions of liberal education scarcely existed. Colet's 
foundation excited his admiration, as at once civic, lay, and 
humanist. But the majority of local schools were prisons and 
torture-chambers, homes of darkness and barbarity. Further, 
Erasmus propounded a curriculum which should carry youth 
to the threshold of manhood, when, the stimulus of the teacher 
being withdrawn, the spontaneous interests of the pupil could 
be counted upon to carry onward the pursuit of learning into 
adult life. Now all this implies an education for the prosperous 
class : the gentry, the wealthy burgher, the state official. The 
poor man can only secure education by civic or private benevo- 
lence, a form of charity which he earnestly commends ^ 

^ De Pueris, infra, p. 204, § 23 s.f. 

^ Op. i. 508 E, infra, p. 209, §26: Op. v. 7 16 A. With Erasmus the 
education of the poorer class was the object of pious wish, a most suitable 
work of charity in individual cases of special talent. Erasmus, like his 
humanist — and other — contemporaries, has no consciousness of a problem 

6 — 2 

84 The Educational Aim of Erasmus 

In the next place, the choice of instrument is rigidly con- 
ditioned : the classical literatures are alone admitted. This 
carried with it the elimination of purely national elements in 
education, and the substitution for them of a universal culture. 
This accounts for the fact that the influence of the Erasmian 
ideal in Germany was inferior to that of Melanchthon, with that 
Protestant Teutonism which coloured all his educational propa- 
ganda. Perhaps it was in the Jesuit schools that the curriculum 
of Erasmus was most adequately presented. 

That the new education found no place for instruction in 
natural phenomena is hardly to be set down to its disadvantage. 
There was as yet no science of nature available for teaching'. 
Astronomy was attaining fixity, it is true : but both geography 
and natural history still rested on unsound knowledge of facts 
and perfunctory classification. The age of over-sea discovery 
was but dawning in Northern Europe. "Cosmography," there- 
fore, meant, even yet, Strabo and Mela. Modern geography 
did not, could not, yet exist. The life df plants and animals 
was, as in previous centuries, the sport of credulity and a priori 
hypothesis. The vernacular was beneath consideration : it was 
a mere dialect. Mathematics had no human interest. Modern 
historians were but annalists. 

to be faced. He knew that on his own lines popular education was 
impossible ; and indeed he may be said to have emphasised the deep 
distinction between the educated and the uneducated classes. It is, 
however, clear that he regarded training in rudiments of religion and 
duty as the fitting education for those who had to work with their hands. 
Preachers must use the vernacular, and so familiarise their congregations 
with Scripture and Church doctrine. " I see no reason why the unedu- 
cated should be kept from the New Testament." Instruction of this 
sort, Catechisms, Hymns, with private reading of Scripture will form a 
training which in its degree will be a compensation to those to whom 
learning is inaccessible. Cp. Glockner, Bildimg und Erziehung, p. 97. 

1 In the De Pueris, §§ 10, 30, we have instances. Topsell's The 
Historie of Fonre-Footed Beastes, which in its original Latin form was 
perhaps the most popular Natural History throughout Europe in the 
century 1560 — 1660, will illustrate the same argument. 

The Instruments of Instruction 85 

Briefly put, the only available material for instruction was 
that contained in the ancient writers. Partly, because through 
them alone could mind come into contact with mind. Partly, 
because subsequent enquiry had added nothing to the scientific 
wisdom therein contained. Partly, that outside of them there 
was no organised secular knowledge at all. And Erasmus knew 
that facts which, however interesting, are formless and unre- 
lated, have no value for the education of the young. Finally, 
the doctrine that education can only follow opinion is clearly 
realised. Erasmus is for ever proclaiming that " opinion " both 
in clergy and laity must be reformed before scholars can effect 
their ends. Rulers, parents, nobles must move before instruc- 
tion can be moulded upon new lines. The absence of state 
organisation throws the onus upon the Church and the govern- 
ing classes. A new standard, a fresh subject of education is 
impossible without the strong impulse of social, or professional 



§ I. Earliest Care. 

The first responsibilities towards the young^ are of much 
concern to Erasmus, as indeed they are to most humanists who 
write upon Education. Erasmus realised that heredity has a 
certain influence, which a man of intelligence will recognise in 
choosing his wife. It is often possible to affirm that the wrong 
bent of a child is congenital and may, therefore, prove to be 
ineradicable. But the mother may do much to secure that her 
child be born with a nature apt to good impressions by diligent 
care for her own health, by maintaining equability of temper 
and moderation in all things. The nursling must be the 
mother's exclusive care. The custom of putting the new-born 
child to nurse is condemned — on the best classical prece- 
dents ^ 

^ Erasmus treats of this subject in the De Pueris and De Clir. Matrim. 
It has often been said that the humanists had no message to offer concern- 
ing the education of young children. This is, as a fact, wholly untrue. 
They had of course an imperfect concept of what was necessary. But the 
essential point is that they realised that there was a problem. The Middle 
Age had neither a view upon the beginnings of teaching nor a sense that a 
view of any kind was needed. 

^ Plutarch's tract irepi irafSwv d7&ry^j was appealed to in this matter, 
as in so many other precepts upon the training of the young. Erasmus 
follows Plutarch very closely, as did most humanists. It was one of the 
earliest Greek treatises to be translated into Latin (by Lionardo Bruni 
d' Arezzo) in the course of the Revival. 

Unfitness of Women as Educators 87 

Children acquire through unconscious imitation much, 
even at this earliest stage, which abides for life. Hence the 
importance of the right education of women. Cornelia and 
other Roman mothers are a standing proof of this. Feminine 
influence is specially enduring in the beginnings of speech. 
In this respect the danger arising from contact with ignorant 
women servants is hard to overrate. In physical care, in 
manners, in the simple duties of truth and reverence, the 
responsibility during the early stage falls wholly upon the 

It is a grave question at what period this oversight of 
women should be superseded. There is beyond doubt a 
reminiscence of the celibate ecclesiastic in the view of 
Erasmus and of Sadoleto that the mother's place should be 
taken by the father or tutor about the fifth year. Both depre- 
cate the influence of women even at the first stages of boy 
life. Erasmus thinks that they lack self-restraint, are indulgent 
and cruel by caprice, a consequence, no doubt, of vicious train- 
ing which precluded all serious thinking upon life and duty. 

Yet Erasmus affirms constantly that no force for good can 
surpass the child's home atmosphere. Nurture and example 
are the stimulus to the formation of an unconscious standard 
of conduct, intelligence and taste. In a pious household it is 
customary for the child to see food sent from table to the 
home of a suff'ering poor neighbour ; the walls will have illus- 
trations of virtuous and brave actions. Interest in religious 
truths will be aroused. " Nee fere impii liberi nisi parentum 
culpa. " 



Erasmus, like Locke, had learnt from his own experience 
the importance of health as a condition of efficient intellectual 
life. His view of the relation of mind and body was derived 

88 The Beginnings of Educatio7i 

from Aristotle. It is of no great concern to Erasmus whether 
that view was or was not scriptural : the body may be a prison, 
or a temple, or a garment ; in any case these are metaphors 
only. He is solely concerned with the practical question : its 
abstract, philosophical formulation has no concern for him. 
This at least is clear to him : the relation of body and mind is 
organic, whence a constant interaction between the two. Just 
as spiritual character is reflected in face and bearing, so anger, 
envy, desires, are closely bound up with bodily states. Thus 
he sees the whole question on more than one side. As an end 
in itself bodily culture makes little or no appeal to him. The 
soul is the end : it is enough that the body fulfil reasonably its 
behests. In this he differs from the earliest humanists, and 
from ancient ideals. We must not forget that the " cult of the 
body" in Germany meant a warlike ferocity of unparalleled 
coarseness, not the grace of Apollo or of the Ephebi of 

Yet during the earlier years of childhood — to the seventh 
,at least — much care is needed. In this the mother's action is 
bf chief importance. Erasmus enters into some detail'. Too 
much, or too rich, food, spices, wine, are all forbidden ; the 
mind, not less than the body, suffers from such indulgences. 
Too much sleep is equally injurious. Exercise, he expressly 
urges, should be free and spontaneous. Dress should always 
allow of such activity. Girls suffer more than boys from 
custom and from parental vanity. Smart, cramping dress, 
with sleeves and trains and collars, not only hampers them 
physically but begets childish conceit. If parents must have an 
object for foolish pride of this kind let them buy a monkey 
and work off their vanity by dressing it up instead. Moreover, 
it is of great importance under what conditions of air and 

' Eras. Op. v. 710 E — 711 A. Erasmus has in mind advice given by 
Aristotle, De Generatione. All is to be done arid allowed by way of the 
Mean. See also Op. i. 447 a, b. 

The Place of Physical Training 89 

climate children are nurtured. Foul air and warm temperatures 
are injurious. The Germans, he often records, are grievous 
offenders in this regard. Yet the hardening by exposure — thin 
dress, bare legs, no hat, has a critic in Erasmus. Baths are 
good, in moderation. Sadoleto deprecates the idea of washing 
as often as once a. day, "in northern fashion." 

Erasmus has observed the effects of the imitative instinct in 
bodily affections. Hence the care which must be exercised as 
respects companionship. Contagion, bodily and mental, is a 
risk to which " the moist and tender bodies of the very young" 
are particularly liable. Stammering, some eye-affections, and 
nervous tricks are readily acquired from others. And he warns 
against allowing intercourse with crying, peevish and irritable 
companions. 'I'he dangers involved reveal themselves only 
gradually, but they are very hard to eradicate in later years. 
Games, fresh air, regular habits, no fasting, no night-work are 
his prescriptions for the health of the young boy or girl : " ut 
corpore bene composito animus sit ad institutionem habilior^" 
It was objected to Erasmus that he was exceeding the Christian 
norm in his concern for the body ; a judgment which he 
scornfully rejected. He has, however, wholly outgrown the 
mediaeval concept of the need of depressing the body in 
the interests of the spirit. 

None the less he is careful always to say that he will not 
regard the vigour of an athlete as a compensation for lack of 
learning. A grown man needs just enough health to go along 
with. The "Orator" — the man of affairs and society — will 
need no doubt a training in gesture and bearing : such out- 
ward aptitudes are the complement of the inner aesthetic 
results of polite letters. 

^ Op. V. 712 B. Quintilian advises gymnastic exercises for an orator, 
to enable him to cultivate gesture. So Erasmus, Op. v. 963. 

90 The Beginnings of Education 

% 3. Home Instruction. 

Erasmus would prefer that the foundations of instruction 
should be laid at home and that the mother and father should, 
in this respect also, qualify themselves to guide the growing 
mind. Systematic teaching will hardly begin before the 
seventh year. But before that certain rudiments may well be 
imparted. In religion, for example, the sacred name of the 
Father and of the Redeemer will be taught : the reverence due 
to Scripture : the simple meaning of Baptism : the protecting 
presence of the Guardian Angel. Such teaching will be 
associated with regular observance of Christian worship. In 
intimate dependence on religion stands the elementary morality 
of childhood : obedience, respect, and, above all, truthfulness. 
Lying is the worst vice of childhood. Tales and proverbs, 
read from ancient history and Old Testament Scripture ahke, 
form the material for such instruction. But parents must 
remember that all such training is nullified by examples of 
coarseness or indulgence on their part. As to knowledge — 
the most important duty is to impart the first facility in Latin 
Grammar. Here Erasmus touches " praeludia quaedam " of 
education. For instance the alphabet and the first steps in 
reading and writing should be learnt always by way of play. 
Then good articulation and pronunciation must be insisted on. 
Following this may come the naming of objects, in the con- 
crete or in picture. But objects are clearly valued, at this 
stage at least, only as aids to linguistic advance. There is to 
be no use of the vernacular : Latin has become the natural 
means of communication. Hence the necessity of keeping 
menials at arm's length. We are reminded of Montaigne's ex- 
perience, although every humanist, Vives, Melanchthon, Sturm, 
prescribed the same rule. But the note of this stage is this : 
"usque ad annum septimum tantum novalis praeparatur ad 

A Case of Discipline ^ 9 1 

sementum^" Aristotle had fixed the fifth year as the earliest 
at which compulsory exercises might begin. 

Erasmus had much to say respecting discipline during this 
period. He insists that the method of training must be " per 
lusum " — by way of pleasant device, and by kindly interest. He 
quotes the case of a mother who ruined her little daughter's 
nature by sheer cruelty. " The child could as yet hardly 
speak properly when she took her in hand to train her as a 
lady of society." The process involved beating a little girl of 
six until she fainted : yet the mother was not yet 26 years 
of age. " I for my part," says Erasmus, " would gladly have 
seen this tyrant thrashed in the child's stead. For, you see, it 
was really an aggravated case. Supposing that the 'instruction* 
in question was genuinely worth giving, even so it was a wicked 
way of going to work. But here was some trivial nonsense of 
conventional manners — and for that she tortured her own 
child^" No, all discipline and all method for the young has 
as its aim to win and not to drive. Undoubtedly the content 
of the instruction in this stage is slight, but the genius of 
Erasmus is shown in his insistence that the teaching of such 
young children is a problem worth solving^ 

^ Eras. Op. v. 710 D, Arist. Polit. vii. 17; his objection is that premature 
intellectual work might interfere with physical excellence. Cp. Burnet, 
Aristotle on Education, p. 103, 5. Elyot fixes seven years; Sturm be- 
tween six and seven; Quintilian, and many humanists, refused to state a 

'^ Eras. Op. v. 7 1 2 D : a very important passage. 

^ Erasmus is almost alone in urging the importance of careful observa- 
tion of temperament and capacity in the very young: " non mediocris artis 
est instituere primam aetatem." Op. v. 715 B. There are not a few parents 
who can make no allowance for childhood and wish their children to be 
born grown up. The "petty school" in England of the 16th and 17th 
centuries was a deplorable institution : even Brinsley could propose that 
" to teach them (little children) would help some poor man or woman who 
knew not how to live otherwise." Cp. Foster Watson, Curriculum, p. 6. 
Erasmus, in his sense of the importance of the foundations of education, 
strikes a most modern note. 

92 The Begmnings of Education 

§ 4. School-life and Home Instruction. 

A momentous decision has now to be made. Shall the 
boy remain at home or shall he go to school ? Erasmus would 
ideally prefer that a boy at the age of seven should attend 
a day school from his own home, and work after school hours 
under direction of a tutor. 

At this age the child's special bent of mind and temper is 
in great part revealed. He is able to endure systematic mental 
work and is benefited by social intercourse with his equals. 

A wise parent will have already followed a well-considered 
scheme of training, which leads directly to the stage of school- 
life : and thus will be competent to decide the question which 
now confronts him. Erasmus is not able to lay down a 
uniform procedure, though some points are clear. The father 
is the best educator, if only he be duly qualified. First he has 
nothing but denunciation for the monastic hoarding school 
removed from public observation and control : education 
is a matter of civic responsibility'. Aristotle and Plato ad- 
vocated a ' public ' school in preference to private ventures. 
Yet {a) the existing schools are thoroughly unsatisfactory (he 
is referring to the local grammar schools, the Cathedral schools, 
&c.), their staffs are worthless ; the head-masters are there by 
the favour of careless and ignorant governors. " Drunken, 
broken down, imbecile, they teach in miserable hovels : as 
though they turn out pigs instead of citizens. Such is the 
seed-plot of the State^!" There is {b) further the risk of 
herding a large gathering of boys together ; for inevitably in 
such a mingling of characters evil has an undue chance. 

Again individual instruction is out of the question where 
classes are large and parents have no control over the type of 

' Eras. Op. i. 504 D. Infra, p. 209. For the reference to Plato and 
Aristotle, Op. v. 713 c. 
« Op. V. 713 c, D. 

The Qualifications of the Tutor 93 

master engaged. In collegiate or higher schools language 
teaching is thoroughly bad ; and the more ambitious boys are 
by the time they are 15 or 16 hankering after freedom, or 
university courses, and degrees which will — save the mark ! — 
give them the status of teachers themselves. So that Erasmus 
feels driven to propose that one tutor be engaged to teach five 
or six boys', who then enjoy the benefits of companionship, 
emulation and personal interests, whilst not losing the stimulus 
that home-life supplies. The parent, indeed, has no right to 
disown his responsibility at any time during the education of 
his son. The choice of the tutor or the school by no means 
implies that the father has abdicated. How valuable wise 
supervision may be was recognised in ancient Rome : it was 
common in Athens. 

§ 5. The Qualifications of the Master. 

The Tutor must be, first of all, a man of high character, 
worthy of fullest confidence. He must be active, vigorous and 
of healthy habit. His age should be such as to secure ex- 
perience, but not such as to remove him from sympathy with 
active youth. His great aim will be to kindle spontaneous 
interest. Manner is of importance ; he must not be gloomy in 
appearance, nor passionate ; he must be serious, indeed, but 
patient, remembering that he too was once a boy. He will be 
on thoroughly frank and friendly terms with the parents and 
will be trusted by them. But there will be " liberalis quaedam 
reverentia " withal. Learned he must be; indeed, without a 
high qualification as a student he has no right to his post. 
Erasmus is dismayed at the low estimate which most parents 
form of the tutor's functions. His pay is less than that of a 
cook, and his selection a matter of far less thought. A man 
will often give away the appointment — to oblige a friend ; a 

^ Op. V. 716 A. 

94 ^^^ Beginnings of Education 

mother is often more careful of her pet dog\ The essential 
marks of his erudition are his knowledge of Latin and Greek, 
his breadth of reading and his mastery of sound conversational 
Latin. A university degree is never named as a qualification, 
which is evidence of the divorce still subsisting between 
humanist study and the northern university. Erasmus sets 
undoubtedly a very lofty standard of attainment before his 
ideal master. Admitting that his functions as a teacher will 
have a comparatively narrow range, he should, notwithstanding, 
have covered the whole field of learning as contained in 
classical literature; and in any case have acquaintance with 
the principal subjects therein treated of Writers are to be 
read not merely as stylists, but as authorities on the various 
arts and sciences. History, geography, astronomy, mythology, 
philosophy and theology ; the arts of war, agriculture, of 
architecture ; the accounts given of trees, plants, animals, of 
customs and antiquities — these are to be known, and the whole 
fabric of ancient culture realised in living fashion by the 
perfect scholar. A right grasp of the Erasmian concept of 
scholarship will save us from much shallow criticism of the 
Renaissance ideal of knowledge and of education. Naturally 
a man of such erudition may find it difficult to adapt his 
teaching to the child-mind. Here comes the third qualifica- 
tion required of the master ; his insight into the moral and 
intellectual disposition of the pupil, and his ability to order 
discipline and instruction accordingly. Erasmus shows a most 
remarkable power of observation on his own part in regard to 
personal bent, capacity and disposition in boys. He insists 
that such insight is as easy to acquire as it is essential. Looks, 
expression, gesture, degree of self-control, facial conformation, 
personal habits in respect of dress and speech, temper in 

^ No woman is competent: "praeter naturam est feminam in masculos 
habere imperium." Cp. i. 504 c, and Becher, Die Ansichten, p. 8. For 
the denunciation of similar indifference by Italian humanists cp. Woodward, 
Vittorino, p. 201. 

Importance of the Teaching Art 95 

games, all carry their message to a skilful observer. Intel- 
lectual taste and capacity are, he affirmed, always purely 
individual; ready perception of such special endowments is 
the first step towards adapting instruction to the pupil. The 
master must be competent to adjust means to ends'. Young 
boys entering upon new and, at first stages, unattractive subject- 
matter must be won by patience, by incentives of rivalry and 
reward, by devices such as pictures, stories and moral lessons. 
The tutor will welcome the presence and co-operation of the 
father in stimulating the desire to excel. Excess of preparatory' 
work, undue stress on learning by heart, ill-judged themes for 
composition, all imply that the master forgets what a boy is. 
The teacher must never take his own mental interests and 
capacities as his guide either in discipline or instruction. 
" Remember that your pupil is a boy still, and that you were a 
boy yourself not so long ago." Then the master will show 
himself at once reasonable and humane. 

Erasmus regarded the creation of a new type of master, 
private or public, as the first condition of educational reform. 
That he himself set forth an ideal hard to attain, he was well 
aware. To provide for this pressing need is the urgent duty of 
an enlightened Prince. The rightly equipped master ranks 
with wise kingship, upright officials and a devoted clergy, as 
one of the four pillars of national well-being. He elaborated 
his first picture of a modern master for Colet's school. He 
would have found it, had he known, realised in the person of 
Vittorino da Feltre, in the famous school of Mantua nearly a 
century before. 

1 Op. i. 513 A. The place of interest in learning was thoroughly 
realised by Erasmus. The order of its development is not very consistently 
worked out, but it is somewhat as follows: spontaneous interest in play; 
love and respect for teacher ; derived love for knowledge following upon 
the personal bond ; fear of blame and of falling below proper self-respect ; 
desire for piaise, which is identical with the man's love of Fame. Op. i. 
1213— 4 

g6 The Beginnings of Systematic Instruction 

§ 6. The Beginnings of Systematic Instruction. 

The Erasmian education began, as we saw, unconsciously. 
Speech, i.e. Latin speech, must be acquired as early as the 
home conditions admit. In some cases a child might, like 
Montaigne, be so fortunate as to acquire good conversational 
Latin before the end of the fifth year. This, indeed, is the 
natural method of learning Latin. In this way articulation, 
pronunciation and expression will be cultivated. Vocabulary 
will be derived from object teaching, and the Colloquies are 
full of instances of this use of external things in instruction. 
As word-forms come gradually into use, arrangement of simple 
inflections will follow : but of systematic grammar there will be 
at first very little. Ancient stories, historical and mythical, and 
descriptions of animal and plant life, all illustrated by pictures ', 
will be told, and conversation leading up to moral truths built 
upon them. Travellers bring stories of wonder, modern history 
also narrates incidents which are of interest, and which when 
remembered may be helpful later on. It is remarkable to note 
the important place which teaching of this kind occupies 
in Erasmus' ideal ; and how elaborately he has worked it out 
as an element of home education. Undoubtedly it was in- 
struction about objects rather than through objects, and it 
had a dual aim : linguistic as well as quasi-realist. Still it was 
devised on true grounds of child interests and went as far, 
perhaps, as the state of scientific knowledge then allowed. 
For the school can only adapt such knowledge as its age 
provides. The Colloquies were as a whole lessons in the 
concrete, although their objects are social life, daily experience, 
and humanity rather than Nature. These are, however, 
" nature study " in as genuine a sense as demonstrations in 
natural history : for their actuality is not limited to human 
character, but extends to environment and setting. Their 

' Infra, p. 226 : the Colloquy upon "A serious Entertainment." 

Reading and Writing 97 

intent is to arouse observation, criticism and ethical selection ; 
the method is an approach, at least, to direct handling of 
facts. It is evident in this connection that, although Erasmus 
would refuse a place to the vernacular in the school, a 
working acquaintance with the mother tongue was assumed 
as the means of acquiring such general knowledge of common 
facts as is here indicated. 

Reading' follows. It must be taught early: "Sonare 
primum est, proximum legere." That is the order. Letters 
are taught and recognised : this by the method of the biscuit 
letters of Horace, or by ivory tablets, or by pictures ; and 
there was a game of Scaci in which Greek and Latin letters 
were employed in a sort of competition. Letters are named, 
written and pronounced ; then syllables, words and sentences. 
Reading matter must be intelligible and attractive, though we 
should be glad to know the type of book contemplated. 
Nothing very attractive has come down to us. Probably 
extracts were written, or later on dictated, for temporary use. 
Consecutive reading should be practised on some author 
worth studying. The Colloquies of Erasmus were the most 
popular "Reader" of the i6th and 17th centuries. 

Writing, in turn, is of later introduction than reading. In 
its beginnings it is a form of drawing. Handwriting, says 
Erasmus, like one's voice, is a part of our personality and 
should be cultivated accordingly. This is not exclusively a 
mere utility. A start is made with simplest capitals of Roman, 
not Gothic, type. The best examples are the letters to be 
found upon the coin inscriptions of the sestertii of the early 
empire — a very remarkable bit of true artistic perception of 
Erasmus^. He describes carefully the formation of letters to 
be followed in writing-copies. Simpler capitals first, then the 
more complex ones, lastly groups and abbreviations. Before 

^ Dialog. De Pronun., Op. i. 929 A. 

^ Cp. the Dialog. De Pronun., Op. i. 925, 6. 

98 Discipline 

the age of seven this will be taught by a teacher of sense 
"by way of play." The Greek and Latin alphabets ought if 
possible to be learnt side by side'. Let all headlines be 
sensible and useful. Drawing is attractive to boys, in that 
every child is delighted to express in this way what he has 
seen : at a later stage it will be found helpful to add manual 
dexterity in painting, modelling and architecture : we need not 
fear the reproach of the rigid humanist, " for we cannot forget 
that our Lord was not only the son of a craftsman, but was 
one Himself^" 

§ 7. Discipline. 

Erasmus has two charges to make against the schoolmasters 
of his day : they are ignorant and they are brutal. He con- 
nects the two by proving that brutality is the resource of the 
master who has either no method of teaching or nothing to 
teach ^ 

The insight into child nature which Erasmus displayed was 
accompanied by a definite concept of the conditions of right 
discipline, which he properly understood as including both 
stimulus and restraint. This psychological theory implied that 
the growing mind is by nature curious, imitative and tenacious; 
and that it is by nature amenable to right guidance. Hence 
the boy may be counted upon to obey suitable incentives. 
These are in part personal to the teacher, in part they belong 
to his instruction. 

The first step is to secure the respect and the affection of 
the pupil for the master, an affection which will not be allowed 
to degenerate into familiarity. This leads to the second stage : 
the affection for the subject taught. But this will not be main- 
tained unless interest is aroused. Now interest in the subject- 

^ Op. V. 712c: this before the 7th year, and always " per lusum." 

* Op. V. 716 B, C. 

• The De Pueris should be read in illustration of this section. 

Sanctions of Discipline 99 

matter may not be at first strong enough to survive : it must be 
nourished by associating pleasure with the actual teaching 
process. This is secured by wise devices, which Erasmus 
describes " per lusum discere " ; by encouragement of am- 
bition ; by emulation ; by alternation of subjects, and intervals 
for relaxation. The Colloquies as a means of learning Latin in 
lieu of the method of logical grammar are a standing instance 
with Erasmus. Moreover he sees that clearness in exposition 
and arrangement, variety of illustration, of contrast and of 
parallel, are essential factors in retaining attention. Exercises, 
for instance, in speaking Latin, should be carefully adapted to 
the boy's own interests, his play and social life. The choice 
of such material was, no doubt, less easy than it appeared to 
be to Erasmus. He had himself no competing interests 
outside his life of a student ; and had never experienced the 
sweeping tide of physical energy with its imperious demands 
for bodily activity and achievement. He admits that to some 
boys intellectual pursuits make no appeal, and for those he 
urges a wholly different training, though one in which he can 
take little concern. 

The desire of fame and fear of dispraise or of ridicule 
become with Erasmus an educational motive. These indeed 
have in them something of the nature of instinct. But whilst 
backward boys may be thus encouraged, good scholars are not 
to be over-praised. For though despondency is to be avoided, 
conceit and contempt for others are not less objectionable. 

Strictly in harmony with this view of the forces which make 
for interest is Erasmus' position respecting punishments. He 
contrasts the method of Christ with his disciples with the 
habit of the teacher of his own day. Erasmus draws a 
repulsive picture of the customary discipline of the grammar 
school. Petrarch had done the same before him : but whilst 
he had stood amazed that any one should undertake so trying 
a trade as that of school teaching, Erasmus glorified it as 
amongst the highest of Christian duties, and the noblest of 


lOO Corporal Punishment ' 

intellectual careers. For he did not admit that harsh dis- 
cipline was a necessity. If there are boys who may only be 
controlled by flogging, let them be sent away from school as 
being incapable of liberal education, and find industrial occu- 
pation. In reality cruelty was in those days a common vice, 
and re-acted inevitably upon school-life. Parents — widowed 
mothers in particular— were not seldom given to violence 
towards their children. They forget that offences are often 
due to mere thoughtlessness and excusable ignorance. No 
woman ought to be allowed to strike a child ; she has not the 
self-control required. Harshness drives boys to enlist or to 
take monastic vows. Girls are broken in spirit. Corporal 
punishment must not be such as offends self-respect and 
modesty, and is unsuited for any but moral faults. But he 
roundly declares that the boy who is not influenced by the fear 
of God, by regard for his parents, by shame, by conscience, is 
not likely to be moulded aright by mere physical pain. The 
stories which he relates from his own experience in the tract 
£>e Pueris ' are very significant ; and throw into strong relief 
Erasmus' enlightened attitude on the question. There is 
obvious relation between that attitude and his optimistic view 
of human nature, just as the mediaeval and Lutheran con- 
viction of depravity might suggest a sterner need for repression. 
It must not be forgotten moreover that Erasmus had never 
been a schoolmaster. 

^ Infra, pp. 205 — 7. 



§ I. The Teaching of Grammar. 

It is important to understand the attitude of Erasmus to 
the subject of Grammar in education. It need not be said, 
perhaps, that by " Grammar" is meant that of the Latin and 
Greek languages, and not of German or Dutch. We shall find 
that Erasmus holds opinions upon this branch of instruction 
which alone would entitle him to a notable place in the history 
of teaching. 

The content of the term Grammar has varied in the history 
of scholarship. To Quintilian it implies not only accidence 
and syntax, and the art of reading aloud, but also the study of 
the poets, historians, philosophers and orators. It is a pursuit 
which demands the highest intelligence ; it corresponds in fact 
to our concept of the study of Literature. The professional 
grammarians, on the other hand, of later date, Donatus, Priscian, 
and Servius, mean by the term the authoritative accidence, 
syntax, and prosody of L,atin and Greek. They were in prin- 
ciple followed by the mediaevalists from Isidore down to the 
eleventh century. But from 1150, or so, onwards we trace the 
rapid intrusion of dialectic into the province of grammar, which 
ceased to be the formulation of usage of expression, and 
became concerned with the laws under which thought was 

I02 The Liberal Studies 

This tendency became more pronounced as the reign of 
dialectic throughout all branches of knowledge was gradually 
established. Whilst in Italy the humanists were busily en- 
gaged in restoring the antique conception of grammar, in the 
north of France, in England and in Germany, it had sunk into 
complete subjection to logic. The following is a definition of 
the function of the Pronoun from a grammar for beginners 
printed in 1499. " Pronomen . . . significat substantiam seu 
entitatem sub modo conceptus intrinseco permanentis seu 
habitus et quietis sub determinate apprehensionis formali- 
tate'." Or we may illustrate the mediaevalist idea from the 
discussions upon the Absolute case. It was not enough for 
the scholar to know that Latin usage constructed this in the 
ablative : the special " ablativity " of the " absolute " concept* 
was really what interested the grammarian. In the same way the 
usages of the participle, of the genitive of possession, of the 
passive voice, were of far less concern than their modi sigiii- 
ficandi or underlying dialectic conceptions. Hence came the 
endless gloss and comment which, like those of Petrus Helias, 
overlay the texts of Priscian and Donatus, and which became 
the substitute for grammatical treatises outside the circles of 
humanism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The same 
confusion is witnessed in the Dictionaries, where etymologies 
and explanations of words pass very often into a dialectical or 
ethical region. Papias, for instance, the chief of the vocabu- 
larists, gives under Ho7?w definitions of Man, in logical shape 
and completeness, instead of a description or synonym : under 
Aetas we find religious admonitions. Elsewhere pronomen is 
thus explained : homo est tuum nomen, peccator est tuum 
pronomen. In fact no grammarian could resist the temptation 
to digression and homily. For the true limits of grammar had 
been lost to sight. It had lost its objective character as the 

^ Thurot, Extraits, p. 490. This is taken from a printed grammar 
dated 1499. 

* Cp. Thurot, I.e., pp. 311 seqq. 

The Teaching of Grammar 103 

formulation of inflection and construction as determined by 
right choice of authorities ^ It had abandoned its independent 
status, and having become a function of logic shared the 
futilities of the current word-spinning of the day*. Its relation 
to style and to literary interpretation was understood in Italy 
alone. Humanists were undoubtedly right in ascribing to the 
dialectic method of handling grammar the stagnation of Latin 
learning which marked the later Middle Age^ 

^ There was always a current of opposition to the prevalent confusion 
of grammar and dialectic during the middle age. But the scholars who 
urged the authority of classical writers were very few, and the Universities 
were against them. Chartres and Tours held out against the dominant 
influence of Paris ; but the point is that they could not influence educational 
opinion. Cp. Clerval, Scales de Chartres, p. 230; Sandys, Classical 
Scholarship, p. 516. 

- The following is from Helias: " Consideremus Vergilium vivere 
bonum est : f^r^zYzMw accusativus t'«'z'<^^ infinitivo regitur. Quare? Quo- 
niana infinitivus accusativum regit ex vi infinitivi. " Thurot, Not. et Extraits, 
p. 245. This, a very common type, shows to what dialectical grammar 
could sink. The mediaeval position is clearly stated. I.e. p. 102: "cum 
Priscianus non docuerit grammaticam per omnem modum sciendi possi- 
bilem, in eo sua doctrina est valde diminuta. Unde constructiones multas 
dicit, quarum tamen causas non assignat, sed solum eas declaral per auctori- 
tates antiquortim gramma(tcorum. Propter quod non docet, quia illi tantum 
docent qui causas suorum dictorum assignant." 

^ Cp. Eras. Oj>. i. 892, iii. pp. 3, 68, 930. Infra, p. 221. The mediaeval 
grammarians, against whom Erasmus specially protests, are these : Johannes 
de Garland ia, an Englishman who resided chiefly in France (circ. 1230). 
His Synonima and Vocabuloruin aequivocorum interpretatio were very 
much used : one or other of these is referred to by Erasmus as used by 
him at school : supra, p. 3. Both were sufficiently in demand to be 
printed by W. de Worde (1499, 1500), and later by Pynson. They are 
both in metre. Michael de Marbais, known as Modista from his book de 
modis sigtiijicandi (circ. 1220). Ebrardus (circ. 12 12), known as Graecista 
from his metrical work on grammar, which contains some speculative 
etymologies from the Greek. Ludolphus, called Florista from his metrical 
syntax, much used in the Netherlands. Papias (circ. 1050) and Hugutio 
(circ. 1 200) produced dictionaries which sorely offended by reason of their 
indifference to classical authority and to classical quotation. The most 

I04 The Liberal Studies 

The revolt against the mediaevalist grammarian, begun by 
Petrarch, found its distinguished champion in Lorenzo Valla 
(14 15 — 1465). Himself a scholar of the first rank in his day 
he waged relentless war against the depravers of Latin. His 
cardinal principle was the exact opposite to theirs. " Ego pro 
lege accipio quidquid magnis auctoribus placuit'." To him 
language was a body of phenomena whose laws were ascertain- 
able from the study of the given facts, and were, once arrived 
at, available for use in speech and in interpretation. All 
a priori, subjective, or allegorical intrusions into this region of 
plain authoritative usage were to be rigorously barred out. All 
humanist scholars followed Valla. The first systematic Latin 
grammar upon the new method was that of N. Perotti, a pupil 
of Vittorino da Feltre, which was printed in 1473. 

The position affirmed by scholars was in reality the precursor 
of the Baconian doctrine, applied thus early to one special 
department of Nature, viz., organised speech. In their respect 
for actual facts, and their aversion to dialectic speculation, a 
profound spiritual kinship links the great minds of the Revival, 
such as Valla and Erasmus, with that of the famous elaborator 
of method. 

popular of all grammarians at the beginning of the Revival was Alexander de 
Villa Dei (circ. 1200), whose hexameter poem (ed. Reichling, 1893) treating 
of accidence, syntax and prosody, was regarded less unfavourably by human- 
ists, and was edited by Sintheim of Deventer (supra, p. 3). It rested upon 
Donatus and Priscian; though the glosses added by later commentators 
were of the usual dialectic sort. The best of the Dictionaries was the 
Vocabularius Breviloquus, often ascribed to Guarino, or to Reuchlin ; both 
wrongly. It grew from an anonymous production which saw the light at 
Basel about 1400; but its inclusion of much theological and legal terminology 
shows that it was not a scholar's handbook but one for professional use. 
In the form of the Strassburg edition of 1491 it was probably the commonest 
dictionary of Erasmus' day. A review of the relation of the DoctrinaU 
of Alexander de Villa Dei to earlier humanist grammars is given by Sabba- 
dini, La Sctiola e gli studt di Guarino, pp. 38 seqq. In its treatment of 
irregular inflections and of syntax it was held to be sound. 
^ Valla, Eleg. Ling. Lai. iii. 17. 

The Teaching of Grammar 105 

The reverence which Erasmus entertained for Valla's 
scholarship has been already noticed. He shared his view 
of the function of grammar as generalised usage, in inflection 
and in construction, formulated as a guide in interpretation 
and composition. It is true that, like nearly all humanists, 
Erasmus occasionally extends the term to cover the study 
of Literature, in imitation of Quintilian. But as a rule he 
limits the use of the word "Grammatica" to accidence, syntax, 
and prosody, as does Sadoleto in his tract on Education, 
and our own Sir Thomas Elyot': "grammar being but the 
introduction to the understanding of authors." 

The view of grammatical method held by Erasmus is 
instructive. Its philosophical basis is never very clearly ex- 
hibited, for it is characteristic of him to work intuitively towards 
right methods whose psychological validity he had no means 
of proving. But it is obvious that, however unconsciously, he 
accepted those principles of language-teaching which have been 
regarded as a peculiar discovery of our own day. We must 
remember that Latin was understood by Erasmus, and was to 
be taught, as a living language in the sense that French and 
German are "living" languages in a modern school-course. 

We can distinguish three stages of grammatical instruction, 
each of which has its phase of natural acquisition, of 
generalisation or systematic grammar, and of practice, whereby 
the pupil fixes and applies rules formally learnt. The earliest 
stage is that already touched upon^. The first steps are taken 
by way of naming, conversation and description : these steps 
are accomplished in the home, if possible in the nursery, where 
as we know Montaigne learnt to speak Latin and that only. 
It is to secure this natural method that Erasmus is so insistent 
on the choice of attendants and companions, and on the 
engagement of a learned tutor. For the same reason Erasmus 

^ Sadoleto, Op. iii. 105. Elyot, Governour, i. -^o- 
^ Supra, pp. 90, 96. 

io6 The Liberal Studies 

debars the use of folk-lore and national stories. Parents and 
friends of the child should keep up their conversational Latin 
and read aloud in the language to further this introductory 
stage'. When the child can understand and take part in such 
conversation he should be taught the first rudiments of gram- 
mar. This is confined carefully to the regular forms of Noun 
and Verb which are detached and learnt by heart. These in 
turn are to be brought into exercise and applied by further 
conversation, so that they may become thoroughly familiar. 

At the second stage, that of earliest school instruction, 
which corresponds to the seventh year of age, the boy will 
make the practice thus gained the basis of a more systematic 
study of grammar. He will now have the advantage of more 
extended power of conversation and of simple reading such as 
we find in some of the easier Colloquies, in tales from Aesop, 
and especially in such carefully devised aids to naming and 
description' as are set out in the Colloquy Convivium Reli- 
giosum*. Here a garden laid out with terraces and shaded 
walks is furnished with specimens of all common plants, and 
with an aviary ; each object is accurately named, and mottoes 
are added. The walls bear frescoes of strange animals and 
trees, also appropriately named. The head of the house con- 
verses about all these and calls attention to their characteristics. 
It is at once instruction in natural objects and in language. 
Thus a vocabulary is formed without books, the Latin name 
is derived directly from the object, not by translation from a 
vernacular word. So epithets, verbs, adverbs, are acquired in 
the same way. Thus a store of words and of rudimentary 
sentence-forms is accumulated, and Latin is associated with 
common life. Such preparation leads in appropriate sequence 
to further grammatical acquisition. But at this stage also 

^ Eras. Op. i. 509 K : and infra, p. 212; this section of the De Pueris 
refers wholly to the first stage of teaching language. 

- The Colloquies in Bailey's translation, i. 21 — 120 (Op. i. 630 — 672), 
esp. Bailey, i. 156 {Of. i. 672), are excellent examples for reference. 

The Teaching of Grammar 107 

systematic grammar is strictly limited in amount. Such por- 
tions only of accidence and syntax are to be learnt as are 
needed for use in easy reading and composition. There is as 
yet no thought of a complete grammar to be taught in its 
logical order. The treatment is determined by the pupil's 
needs and power of assimilation, not by the requirements of 
the subject regarded as an organised whole. Hence the Master 
will be most careful in his choice of material, which must be 
stated in the simplest fashion and illustrated by intelligible and 
attractive quotations. Unusual and anomalous forms are, so 
far as may be, ignored ; and no word out of ordinary use may 
be included. Such a text-book serves as verification and as 
clear definition of usages already partly perceived from reading 
and conversation. For the standing principle is always : from 
reading to perception of usage, from usage to authoritative 
rule. The mediaevalist had completely inverted the order; 
and the i8th century revived the same inversion. 

In the De Constructione^ Erasmus has left us his idea of 
a Syntax for boys at this second stage of Latin instruction. 
It was originally drafted by W. Lily, and was at his request 
revised by Erasmus for the use of St Paul's School. The 
selection and order of the material is interesting : the contents 
are as follows : 

1. The cases required by different classes of verbs. 

2. The simple uses of the Infinitive, Supine, Gerund 

and Participle. 

3. Certain common case constructions other than those 

with the Verb. 

^ Libellus de octo orationis partium constructioiie, corredus ab Erasmo, 
cum praefat.J. Coleti. Basil. Aug. 1515. Upon the history of this grammar 
see Lupton in Notes and Queries, Series vi, vol. 11. pp. 441^ — 2, 461 — 2. 
In the form which it had assumed by 1540 Lily's Gratnmar, as revised 
by Erasmus, was by royal proclamation " authorised " for exclusive use 
in Grammar Schools. See Foster Watson, Curriculum atid Text-hooks, 
p. 28. 

io8 The Liberal Studies 

4. The concords of noun and adjective : relative and 


5. The construction of degrees of comparison, and of 

certain groups of adjectives and numerals with 

6. Certain constructions of Dative, Accusative and 

Ablative with noun and adjective. 

7. The adverb in construction with a noun. 

8. Conjunctions and Interjections. 

9. Prepositions and their cases. 

The whole occupies about 25 pages of the size of the 
present volume. Its gradual development into the Eton Latin 
Grammar is a curious proof of the remarkable survivals which 
characterise school books. 

The criticism has often been made that in this outline 
Erasmus shows himself arbitrary and illogical in arrangement. 
But the answer is that his method is the express antithesis to a 
systematic teaching of grammar. For he handles the subject 
in the order and with just so much complexity as are adapted 
to the learner beginning to construe ; to the end that he may 
find his accumulating knowledge of language — empirically 
arrived at — best codified. Grammar follows speech. It is 
by conversation and by reading that a boy must hope to 
acquire the laws of expression, not by learning grammar'. 
Elyot, who in so many ways interpreted Erasmus to England, 
in the true spirit of his master, " would advise not to detain 
the child too long in that tedious labour " of grammar, which 
if "made too long or too exquisite to the learner, it in a manner 
mortifieth his courage.... The spark of the fervent desire of 
learning is extinct with the burden of grammar-." 

Memory work is thus reduced to small limits, but within 

^ De Rat. Stud. 521 C: infra, p. 164. For an example of inductive 

treatment of a construction cp. Eras. Op. \. 667 D — 668 D : the instance 
chosen is "constat." 

* Elyot, Goveniotir, I.e. 

The Teaching of Grammar 109 

these it must be exact. Its place is taken by practice. Herein 
lies the value of the Colloquies, which were devised originally 
to aid conversation by bringing daily life and school topics 
within the circle of Latin instruction. The method long sur- 
vived, as we know from such text-books as the Dialogues of 
Mathurin Cordier' and the \a.ttr /anua of the Jesuits and of 

Two defects in the current grammars of mediaeval origin 
were specially noted by Erasmus. The first was that the rules 
were never illustrated by quotations from classical authors. 
The Erasmian method made this essential. He further urges 
that such examples should be in themselves likely to interest 
children, should be of moral worth, or of poetic charm. The 
second was that the mediaeval teacher did nothing for vocabu- 
lary. Young men grew up under such a master, and after 
years of his instruction knew nothing of names of common 
animals, plants, geographical facts, or objects of daily life. 
Hence Latin meant nothing to them as a practical aptitude^ 
But to Erasmus Latin was either a working tool for life or 

The l/iird, or higher, stage of Latin study required, how- 
ever, a much more thorough mastery of grammar. It is now 
systematic — "per locos et ordines." Practice upon the basis 
of the previous stage is extended. But text-books such as 
Valla's Elegantiae and Perotti's Rudimenta are to be in the 
pupil's hands. Reading will still have for one of its ends the 
verification and amplification of rules : and care will always be 
taken to remember that grammar is never an end in itself. 

1 M. Cordier, a famous school-master in Paris and Geneva. Calvin 
w^as a pupil of his. His Colloquies was a popular school hook in the second 
half of the 17th century, and was edited by C. Hoole in 1657 fo"" English 

^ The first part of the De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 162, should be read in 
conjunction with this passage. 

3 De Eat. Stud., infra, p. 169, § 6. 

no . The Liberal Studies 

The principle applies to Greek as well as to Latin. Gaza's 
grammar, which Erasmus edited, he quotes as an example 
of a sound systematic treatment. Lascaris, Urbanus, and 
Chalcondylas are also available. The parallel study of the 
two languages is strongly advised ; and Erasmus is not blind 
to the use which can be made of Romance languages and 
modern Greek on the comparative method ^ The former 
device is common to most humanist masters, the latter is quite 

It is evident that in laying down this enlightened method 
of teaching language Erasmus relies upon two conditions. 
The first is, that from the beginning the learner is reared in a 
home in which Latin is a standing factor of daily intercourse : 
the second, that the master is not only a scholar of wide 
reading, but a teacher of insight, and of special capacity for 
evoking interest. It is not easy for us to-day to judge of the 
success of such a method' owing to our unfamiliarity with 
Latin as a living language. But if we substitute French for 
Latin, we can perceive the psychological soundness, of its 
principle. The progress is from (a) practice, whereby eye and 
ear are early accustomed to word and sentence, through {b) 
systematisation by which phenomena of usage are reduced to 
rule and paradigm, to {c) application of such formulae to 
extended and more certain practice : this, in turn, forming the 
starting-point for what becomes ultimately the stage of 
logically complete grammar, which serves as the standard 
authority in composition and in reading. 

One word may be said upon the attitude which Erasmus 

^ De Kat. Stud., infra, p. 167, § 5. Upon the parallel teaching of Greek 
and Latin Erasmus is not very definite. He implies distinctly that at the age 
of five Greek and Latin letters may be learnt, Op. v. 712 c. The first steps 
in grammar should be taken in both tongues, De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 163, 
§ 2. But it is obvious that the conversational method was impossible, so 
that the general lines of teaching Greek must have been conceived mainly 
on grammatical lines. At Cambridge Erasmus began with the Erotemata 
of Chrysoloras. 

The Choice of Authors 1 1 1 

adopted towards the mediaevalist. He is, no doubt, entirely 
in the right in basing grammar for beginners upon usage alone. 
None the less the learner gains something from the habit 
of seeking in self-analysis the underlying principles of all 
syntax. Our method of grammatical analysis rests upon such 
practice. Usage in language, though in a true sense objective 
and authoritative, is by no means an arbitrary phenomenon. 
In another sense, not less true, speech takes its usage from 
thought. The mediaevalist, passionately anxious to " explain " 
the universe, was not illogical in including human speech 
among its factors, and he was right in seeking his clues in the 
laws of thought'. None the less Erasmus, as a teacher, was 
justified in his contention that speculation about facts is by no 
means identical with a wide and a firm grasp of such facts ; 
and that for the purpose of literature and of practical life it is 
only the latter that is of importance. 

§ 2. The Choice of Authors in General. 

The principal contribution of Erasmus is contained in the 
De Ratione Shuiii, which must be consulted throughout this 
and the following sections. His criticisms of authors from the 
standpoint of education is less suggestive than those recorded 
by the Italian humanists"^. In the main he reproduces 
Quintilian's choice of writers ^ 

The earliest books to be attempted will be the Proverbs 
and the Gospels in the Vulgate. These should be supple- 
mented by portions (in Latin) of Plutarch's Apophthepnata and 
Moralia, " quibus nihil sanctius inveniri potest." To these he 
adds Seneca '* qui lectoris animum a sordidis curis in sublime 

^ On mediaeval scholarship generally, and in particular upon the eve 
of the Revival, Dr Sandys' History of Classical Scholarship must be in 
future carefully consulted. 

- Cp. Woodward, Vittoritto, p. ^\^. 

^ Quintilian, Instil. Oral. x. i. 

1 1 2 The Liberal Studies 

subvehit'." The foundations of moral teaching as well as 
practice in Latin are hereby secured, and specially is this of 
importance in the training of a prince. Aesop may profitably 
be chosen as the first Greek author. The immense range of 
school editions of the Fables, often illustrated, dating from the 
middle of the i6th century, proves how widely this advice was 
accepted. Erasmus indicates from the outset that he has 
regard to interest and edification in his method of language- 

The general list of writers named by Erasmus for school 
use is the following. In Greek, Lucian, Demosthenes, 
Herodotus ; Aristophanes, Homer, and Euripides. In Latin, 
Terence and Plautus, Vergil, Horace; Cicero, Caesar, Sallust. 
Quintilian gives less prominence to Lucian and Sallust than 
does Erasmus. The note of this selection is the value of the 
writers as aids to the formation of the conversational and 
rhetorical styles. It is important to remember how intimately 
Erasmus knits together reading and composition both in 
respect of form and of matter. Lucian's Dialogues had, as we 
have seen, peculiar attraction for Erasmus, who learnt Greek 
through them. In the parallel acquisition of Greek and Latin 
Terence took place side by side with I>ucian^. Both serve as 
models for conversational style, and present ancient speech in 
living form. Regarding Terence it is well known how highly 
he was esteemed by all humanists : the German protestant 
scholars not less than the Italian masters gave him the chief 
place among junior texts. The taste, wit and grace displayed 

^ Instit. Princip. Chr., in Op. iv. 587 : in Op. ix. 92 B Erasmus brackets 
together Cicero, Quintilian and Seneca as authors wholly blameless in the 
eyes of the most strict Christian educators : he speaks thus of these three 
authors, "qui non solum absunt ab obscenitate verum etiaro saluberrimis 
praeceptis vitam instiluunt." 

^ " Graecitatem ex Luciano discendam ": ix. 92 B. He has an elaborate 
defence of his suitability for this purpose. On Terence, Sabbadini, Guarinot 
p. 147. 

Choice of A uthors 113 

in the Comedies, the purity of their diction, make them so 
helpful to the young scholar that he should be called upon to 
learn whole scenes by heart. Further, they are " interesting " : 
and only a mind already evil will take harm from their reading. 
Guarino considered Terence a profound teacher of morals. 
In the same way, Erasmus commends his Comedies as a 
reflection of the morals and habits of his age, as a picture 
which " in right hands not only does no harm to morality but 
is of immense service in improving it'." He admits that the 
power of drawing out moral lessons from plot and character 
varies with every teacher. Quintilian, Jerome, Augustine, and 
Ambrose studied Terence in their youth and enjoyed him in 
manhood. In short, only barbarians fail to appreciate him. 
Perhaps the best critical work done by Erasmus in I^atin 
scholarship was his edition of Terence. Plautus was less 
favourably viewed for school purposes on moral grounds, and 
selections only can be admitted^. 

We may be surprised at the place given to Aristophanes, 
considering the demand which his plays make for a knowledge 
of Athenian life and politics possessed by no scholar of the 
century of Erasmus. But he brings the student face to face 
with living figures and colloquial speech. Demosthenes is 
there for his eloquence, and Herodotus, perhaps, as being 
attractive in matter and of utility for his moral instances. The 
inclusion of Homer needs no explanation. Euripides closes 
the list. Next to Lucian he was Erasmus' first choice when he 
himself was learning Greek. He then found the choruses 
lacking in true feeling ; and would like to have re-written them 
in a worthier fashion ^ But Erasmus, like most humanists, 
has nothing of the poet in his composition. 

Amongst Latins, Caesar and Sallust, to whom Livy and 
Tacitus^ are elsewhere added, have as historians special claims. 

^ Eras. Op. iii. 1457 E and 1886 D, E. 

" De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 163, § 3. ^ Supra, p. 38. 

* Eras. Op. iii. 971 D. Infra, p. 128, on teaching of history. 

w. 8 

114 The Liberal Studies 

Cicero attracted every humanist on the three sides of orator, 
letter-writer and moralist. Vergil is, in virtue of his elabor- 
ation, chief of all poets, Horace ranks next. Erasmus says of 
these : " when I read this I can scarcely refrain my petition, 
'Holy Socrates, pray for us.' Similarly I can hardly restrain 
myself from wishing happiness and salvation to the holy soul 
of Maro and Flaccus." As Raumer says, there is room for 
surprise at this sentiment'. 

It is noticeable that Erasmus will have nothing to do with 
Latin versions of Romances^. It is more worthy of attention 
that he rules out even of the higher stage of education 
Christian writers, in prose or verse, and the great Greek 
philosophers. He laid down two canons on this head : (i) all 
writings that demand theological knowledge ^ (2) all writings 
involving the young learner in abstract speculation*, are 
unsuited to education. Thus he differs from most early 
humanist masters, and from Wimpheling, Nausea, Vives, and 
Colet in excluding such writers as Lactantius or Cyprian*: and 
the poets Juvencus or Prudentius. Elyot, also, otherwise his 
disciple, is anxious to turn boys of 17 on to the Ethics'^, 
and Sadoleto has the deepest respect for Aristotle and Plato ^ 
as instruments of teaching youth. Erasmus, however, takes 
his own line. Sertno Latirius being the aim, the best only 
should be studied"; as to content, the ancient world in its 

^ Raumer, Gesch. der Piid. i. 79 n. 

'^ Eras. Op. iv. 587 " fabulae stultae et aniles": he expressly mentions 
"Arthurs and Lancelots." The judgment of Montaigne is as severe. Ess. 
i. 25. 

^ Eras. Op. ix. 93 c. Prudentius can only be understood by a theological 
scholar; and " who would dream of forming anyone's style on Juvencus?" 

* Id. i, 522 B. 
'' Id. ix. 93 c. 

^ Elyot, Governour, i. 91. When a boy has reached the age of 17, 
" to the intent his courage be bridled with reason " he must study Aristotle's 
Ethics i. and ii. These would be followed by Plato. 

^ Sadoleto, De Instit. liber.. Op. iii. 1 25. 

* Supra, p. 47. 

The Method of Reading an Author 115 

classic perfection can afford moral instruction of wholly 
adequate type. 

Such a range of reading Erasmus regards as sufficient for 
the ordinary student who is to prepare for a professional life. 
But those who pursue the classical course in order to qualify 
themselves as masters must pursue a far wider range. Upon 
this he lays down a comprehensive programme in the De 
Ratione Studii (§ 5). Now he has no scruple as to the moral 
problem, nor does he exclude Christian writers, nor philoso- 
phers. But he is, even here, averse from a study of Renaissance 
Latinists, as substitutes for the great writers of antiquity : 
although he makes one exception in admitting Poliziano as a 
valuable model for the Epistolary style. In this exclusiveness 
he differed from most of his contemporaries'. 

§ 3. Method of Reading an Author. 

This may be considered under three divisions : aim, pro- 
cedure, devices. 

In the first place it is necessary to disentangle the various 
aifiis with which a given author may be read with a class. 
The master will always use his author for the purpose of 
verifying and amplifying grammatical rule. Accidence, syntax 
and prosody will be constantly illustrated and practised through 
this medium. Next, vocabulary, the range of sentence-forms, 
of figures and metaphors, of similes, and enrichment generally, 
— the rhetorical aptitudes — are strengthened by properly 
directed construing ; and this accumulation of actual material 
for composition is one of the main ends of school reading. In 
the third place, style in the finer sense, the adaptation of 

^ Nausea, De puei-. lit. inst., pp. 24, 27; Vives, De Trad. Discip., iii. 
313, 318. Wimpheling at the end of the fifteenth century included Petrarch, 
L. Bruni, and Filelfo amongst prose Latinists to be read in schools : also 
Baptista Mantuanus, the poet. Cp. Paulsen, p. 37. 


ii6 The Liberal Studies 

expression to theme, is acquired by reading and by reading 
only. The learner perceives through Cicero or Demosthenes 
the spirit of oratory; in Vergil he finds the picturesque 
elaboration of poesy ; the incisiveness of Tacitus, the narra- 
tive powers of Livy, learnt at first hand, teach a student the 
essentials of a historical style. For such qualities as these 
must be felt, and absorbed ; they cannot be imparted by 
precept. Again, the ancient literatures embrace the whole of 
attainable knowledge in the secular sphere. It is only by 
reading that a modern can enter into the true significance of 
antiquity : the way lies alone through the gateway of the 
famous writers. Erasmus is anxious that the learner should 
penetrate into the actual personality of each author studied; 
of this personality his literary expression is an inseparable 
part, and demands therefore intimate analysis. There may, 
there will, be much in any ancient book which for some time 
will remain hidden even from the most industrious. But the 
moral temper, the aesthetic form, the worldly wisdom which a 
great work reveals, the student will in part realise, and will 
thereby enter into a new possession : by such reading he will 
acquire an insight into a civilisation. Finally, the master 
will remember the individuality of his pupils, and will direct 
the aim of a lesson accordingly. For example, a masterful boy 
will not be left to browse upon the Homeric stories of the 
wayward Achilles, whilst he may well take warning from the 
fate of Xerxes. Moreover, if another has before him a career 
which demands a high sense of responsibility — as for example 
a young noble or prince — the teacher will call his attention to 
the lessons of philosophy and of history, and select authors 
from that point of view. 

Regarding procedure, the master will from the outset base 
his method upon the principle that learning depends upon 
interest. The subject or the text must be introduced in what- 
ever way may best stimulate this. The wise teacher will spare 
no pains in learning how to create an atmosphere favourable to 

The Method of Readmg a7i Author r 1 7 

the assimilation of new matter. This principle is worked out 
with much clearness in the De Ratione Studit, § 10, where 
Erasmus exhibits the essential condition of all good teaching 
in relation to lessons on Terence and Vergil. " You begin by 
offering an appreciation of the author, and state what is 
necessary concerning his life and surroundings, his talent and 
the characteristics of his style.... Next you proceed to treat 
briefly and clearly the argument of the play, taking each 
situation in due course." The passage which follows in the 
same paragraph, upon the best manner of opening the study 
of the second Eclogue deserves careful attention. A Herbart- 
ian might well seize upon these examples to prove Erasmus a 
prophet of "apperception." 

After a preliminary construe, to gain a knowledge of the 
general sense, which may presumably be given by the master, 
serious application to the text is first directed to the gram- 
matical structure, prosody, and vocabulary, with particular 
reference to parallel word-forms in Greek. The teacher notes 
any conspicuous elegance in choice of words, or such peculi- 
arities as "archaism, novel usage, Graecisms." Orthography has 
a place here, and etymology. The rhetorical factor at the 
same time falls to be considered. This is of great importance. 
For sound expression, as an acquirement of our own, is de- 
pendent upon close regard to the style of the great models of 
antiquity. The differences of the various literary forms — the 
oratorical and historical style, the satyric and the epic, for 
example — are now dealt with. It is necessary thereupon to 
treat style analytically. Metaphors, similes; the artifices of 
poetical prose, and of oratorical poetry ; the accepted formulae 
of the letter-writer, or the orator ; the vast complex of ampli- 
fication which forms the material of the De Copia ; the 
authoritative structure of the political or the forensic oration — 
all these are dissected, compared with other known instances, 
criticised and made available for future use. Nor will the 
rhetorical factor be regarded by the master in its purely 
technical aspect. For he will analyse the sources of the 

ii8 The Liberal Studies 

pleasurable emotion aroused by any special passage through 
its manner of expression. 

Thirdly, the lesson will allot a large space to subject-matter. 
As this is the chief end of the study of authors, so it must 
constitute the real core of every lesson. It is a characteristic 
instruction to the master : " postremo ad philosophiam veniat 
et poetarum fabulas apte trahat ad mores'." 

The Eclogue referred to is handled by way of example as a 
lesson on the conditions of true friendship. For it is by 
observing examples of conduct set forth in literature, and 
especially in history treated after a literary manner, that we 
learn to distinguish between good and bad actions, between 
disgrace and honourable repute. In the same spirit the master 
will seize upon all matter which may be used as a basis for 
moral suasion. It was thus that Erasmus turned the attack 
upon the devotion of the scholar to pagan Letters by per- 
petually forcing to the front the doctrine of the " ethical end " 
of the new education. 

But the subject-matter of authors includes much besides. 
The humour of the satyrist or the comic poet will be brought 
clearly to view. It will be shown how Comedy treats of the 
less strenuous emotions ; while Tragedy appeals to the deeper 
currents of human feeling. Nor will the logical fence of 
dramatic dialogue pass unnoticed. Further, descriptions of 
places, of physical features, of animals, plants and natural 
phenomena, will be called for. Allusions to myth, tradition, 
and to history will be explained, and political and social con- 
ditions of antiquity referred to. Erasmus admits that only 
few scholars will follow so far : and that the competent master 
is rarely to be found. He adds a caution against undue 
digression : " ne taedio graventur ingenia discentium." 

Upon what have been alluded to as devices not much can be 
said. First, it should be noticed that very often the text itself 
of the author was, in the absence of cheap editions, dictated^ 

^ The right method of reading is laid down with precision in Op. i. 447, 
which passage is printed, infra, p. 223. 

The Method of Reading an Author 119 

either as work to be prepared in advance or during the lesson 
itself, Melanchthon had to provide Greek extracts for his class 
at Wittenberg. The increasing activity of the presses at 
Venice, Florence, and Lyons rendered this less necessary before 
the date of Erasmus' death. But everything beyond the bare 
text was of necessity dictated : as school-boys certainly would 
not use a costly Vocabularius. Next, Erasmus discourages 
literal note-taking as a habit injurious to memory and to 
the power of selection. Such as were taken were to be 
reduced to order, and arranged under headings in manuscript 
books. Charts and lists of words might be wisely hung 
on the schoolroom walls. Thirdly, if questions were asked 
these would be mainly catechetical, to test memory. Yet 
there is in the Colloquies much questioning which is of a 
Socratic sort, but it is not possible to claim for anything that 
we have of Erasmus that it has a so-called "heuristic" aim. 
The humanist believed that instruction meant the imparting of 
knowledge which the learner could not possibly acquire apart 
from a teacher. However, seeing the great importance at- 
tached to spoken Latin, there is no doubt that large opportunity 
for question and answer and for conversational teaching was 

Erasmus clearly intends that, both in respect of choice of 
subject-matter and of procedure, teaching shall conform to 
the "law of interest." He is, of course, far from attaining a 
method consciously based upon psychology. Sound principles, 
indeed, he has, but they are reached empirically : they are 
partial, and often enough fail him. His analysis, as has been 
said before, is rarely deep. So we find him always assuming 
that his own studious and, so to say, adult, interests constitute 
the only rational rule of life. He is thus led to overlook 
completely the physical energy and its accompanying activities, 
which forbid the average boy to accept a standard of attraction 
which consists, all but exclusively, in absorption in purely 
passive instruction. 

I20 The Liberal Studies 

None the less the general method of treatment of a classical 
lesson reveals a remarkable touch of modern practice. It 
exhibits systematic progress from the initial rousing of interest 
and preparation of the ground, through exposition and varied 
treatment of the material, to careful welding of new acquisition 
to knowledge already held, and finally to application first, to 
practice in composition, and then, more broadly, to thought 
and conduct. 

§ 4. Orators and Oratory. 

The first place amongst classical writers was undoubtedly 
given by the humanists to the orators and the writers upon 
rhetoric. This is closely connected with the position accorded 
to oratory in the society of the Renaissance. 

In a previous chapter attention was drawn to the character- 
istic of the Revival which consists in the assertion oi personality 
as a determinate aim in contrast to the mediaeval spirit, whose 
achievements, for example, in art, architecture, science or Church 
order, strike us as corporate and impersonal. Petrarch, how- 
ever, struck the dominant note of the new age in an exuberant 
self-consciousness. Thenceforward the essence of Italian viritl 
was that it recognised its own distinction. Now, although this 
characteristic is stamped upon all forms of humanist production, 
oratory lent itself most readily to the infection of this spirit. 
In the eloquence of the Renaissance the personality of the 
speaker wholly dominates his subject, which is often merely 
a vehicle for the exhibition of learning, taste or flattery. There 
was in Italy in the Quattrocento a remarkable demand for 
Latin speeches of a formal sort — a demand due, in part, 
to the inexhaustible supply. " Every government, and large 
municipality, even private families of position, employed their 
official Orator," says Villari'. A Latin oration held at a festival 

^ Villari, Machiavelli, i. 93. 

Orators and Oratory 121 

the place which music does to-day. In a land of multifarious 
sovereignties like Italy, diplomatic commissions, dynastic cele- 
brations, academic functions, apart from civic and semi-private 
festivals, provided countless ceremonial opportunities for "elo- 
quence." It was inevitable that the lack of substantial content 
compelled attention to rhetorical display'. 

This was, however, the perversion of an effort which other- 
wise had ample justification. Latin was unavoidably the 
language of affairs ; its cultivation on the oratorical side was, 
therefore, wholly desirable. As an educational instrument 
Roman and Greek oratory was deserving of close study and 
imitation. But we may doubt whether it would have received 
the enthusiastic regard which all humanists accorded to it but 
for two facts, the space filled by his Orations amongst the 
extant works of Cicero, and the accident that the one practical 
and systematic treatise upon Education left from antiquity 
treats of the education of the Orator. It is indispensable to 
any proper understanding of humanism to realise the position 
filled by Quintilian in the world of fifteenth century scholarship. 
From the date of the circulation of the complete codex of his 
work, about 1418 — 21, his fame grew rapidly and overshadowed V 
that of all Roman prose writers, Cicero alone excepted. Every 
humanist tract upon education or upon rhetoric is largely a 
reproduction of Quintilian : words, phrases, illustrations, criti- 
cisms, principles, are often merely copied from the Roman 
master. Typical examples are Aeneas Sylvius oti Education, 
and the De Copia of Erasmus". 

In presence then of the demand and the apparatus for 
rhetorical training it is not surprising that oratory filled a large 

1 Burckhardt, Renaissance, p. 240, for examples : " Filelfo begins a 
speech at a betrothal with the words ' Aristotle, the Peripatetic'." " Most 
of his speeches are an atrocious patchwork of classical and biblical quotations 
tacked on to a string of commonplaces." 

^ The former in Woodward, Vittorino, p. 136: Quintilian was reduced 
to epitome by F. Patrizi, about 1460 — 70. Bod. Lib., Can. MSS. 285. 

122 The Liberal Studies 

place in the curriculum of the Italian schools. It was from 
them in due course transferred to the schools of- Germany, 
France and England. Erasmus, therefore, is but typical of 
humanist masters in his view of the importance of the subject 
in education. It will be understood that the relation between 
the study of ancient orators and the corresponding art of 
rhetorical composition is an intimate one, more intimate than in 
any other branch of humanist instruction, not excepting Letter- 
writing. The rule that an author must be read as a model for 
imitation, and not only as literature, applies, therefore, particu- 
larly to Cicero and Demosthenes. 

The concept of oratory as it was derived from the Roman 
masters was one of much distinction. The orator, in the first 
place, is defined as "the good citizen skilled in speaking." 
Quintilian's words are " quum bene dicere non possit nisi vir 
bonus." He supports this from the Gorgias — "dfay/cr; rov 
prjTopiKov StKaiov ctvai." Thus the education of an orator 
implied that a high moral standard was aimed at. For the 
noble expression of noble thought must be the product of 
a noble personality. Next, oratory implies wide knowledge, 
indeed the ideal orator will be an omnivorous reader. Lastly, 
he will have a corresponding command of language. The 
function of eloquence in stimulating virtuous ideas and actions 
was tacitly accepted in spite of much of what to us seems 
disappointing experience in the Italy of Lorenzo and of 
Rodrigo Borgia — a period when the country reeked with 

It is not necessary to discuss the selection of models for 
study. Cicero and Demosthenes stand out above all. Yet 
Erasmus is in accord with Quintilian in refusing to limit the 
learner to these. Quintilian is the great master of technique ; 
though the 'De Oratore of Cicero is to be closely followed. 
The speeches of Livy and Sallust are of great service : Tacitus 
is less useful. Lucan, as a rhetorical poet, is worth study. 
Isocrates is referred to. Unlike Sturm, who says of Luther's 

Composition in Latin Prose 123 

German eloquence, "Lutherus quasi magister extitit nostri 
sermonis, sive puritatem consideres, sive copiam," Erasmus 
has not one word to show that he recognises vernacular 
oratory as other than a self-denying condescension of the 

§ 5. Composition in Latin Prose. 

It will be convenient to consider here the subject of 
Composition, since its climax is reached in an oration. The 
study of eloquent I^atinity in Germany rested on sanctions 
somewhat different from those of the Italian world. There 
also, however, Latin was the tongue of educated and pro- 
fessional life, of administration, law, medicine, the teaching 
profession, the Church. It has been shown that of books 
circulating in Germany, even as late as the middle of the 
sixteenth century, 70 per cent, are written in Latin : in the 
lifetime of Erasmus the proportion was no doubt larger still. 
For we must remember that in distinction to Italy there was 
as yet no literature, in German, of scholarly type, whether 
serious or "polite," to correspond to the work of Poliziano, 
Bembo, or Machiavelli, at least until the Reformation. Latin 
composition, therefore, was a necessary aptitude. This explains 
how it was that humanist masters were able to retain public 
assent to the leading place which they claimed for Latin prose. 
There was a practical demand for Latin, and Erasmus, 
Melanchthon and Sturm insisted that this should be classical 
Latin. It was no question of an " accomplishment " : the 
business-like Luther, with his strong German bias, was not less 
clear upon the point than the humanist. 

That oratory was the chief force in affairs was a conviction 
based upon the precedents of Greek and Roman history, as the 
humanists understood it. It was their tendency to view all 
prose writing, and even poetry, through the glamour of rhetoric. 

124 '^^^ Liberal Studies 

"My greatest approbation," says Erasmus, "is reserved for a 
rhetorical poem and poetical oratory... the rhetorical art should 
transpire through the poem." This is the evil influence of 
Lucan'. The Epistolary style became artificial and inflated, 
and was the subject of endless hand-books upon the form and 
diction of various classes of Letters. Further, " the mysteries 
of the Faith," so Erasmus contends, "owe their power over 
the minds and conduct of men, in large degree, to the grace 
and eloquence of their presentation^." For thus the Fathers 
of the best age qualified themselves to be the teachers of the 
Church by their training in rhetoric and style. Eloquence, 
therefore, in the mind of Erasmus has, as a practical art, a wide 
range : it covers forensic, didactic, hortatory, complimentary, 
and other forms of address ; historical, narrative and descriptive 
composition ; argument, dialogue and correspondence. In- 
directly it affects poetical art. It is evident then that systematic 
teaching of Latin Composition will largely concern itself with 
the oratorical style as that form which has something common 
to all styles I 

On the other hand Erasmus affirmed with iteration his 
protest against absorption in the art of expression. Professional 
aims and breadth of culture alike come before style. His 
general position on Imitation has been referred to. In the 
dialogue De Recta Pronunciatione he realises that reaction 
against mediaeval " barbarism " has gone too far in the direc- 
tion of stylistic display*. In Christian education ostentation 

^ Eras. Op. iii. 104 D. 

'^ Op. V. 30 A, iii. 1275 D, E. 

^ So Colet requires "eloquence" as the characteristic product of scholar- 
ship for St Paul's: Lupton, Colet, p. 169. 

* His words are : " This is apparently a law of human progress, that on 
attaining a certain point in its course a movement only escapes harmful 
exaggeration by a violent rebound in the opposite direction, whereby the 
evil tendency is corrected by its contrary." Op. i. 923 C, E. This is an 
interesting recognition of the law of re-action, and implies a historical 
perception which is unusual in Erasmus. 

Latin Composition 125 

in speech, which strives to display personal qualities, will be 
discouraged'. Hence, "it is good to speak Attic Greek, but 
it should not be too ostentatiously Attic*." The old au- 
thorities, he affirms, always insisted upon appropriateness, 
naturalness, sincerity : the subject first, with expression in 
strict harmony. 

Yet, though such a position is didactically sound, in practice 
Erasmus is not always consistent. For in discourse appropriate- 
ness needs to be enhanced by fulness {copia) and elegance, 
which follow very closely in degree of importance. Expression 
cannot be truly "simple" or perfectly "adapted" unless it 
emanates from mastery of all the resources of the art^ The 
best equipped scholar moves most easily within the rudiments 
of his subject. Thus it still remains true that the teacher of 
composition will find it necessary to lay stress upon training 
in the whole range of rhetoric. Redundancy, embellishment, 
copia rerum et verborum, carried even to excess, are not faults 
in a learner* : oratory must be taught as a conscious art, to 
serve as an equipment, whose superfluities will be cast off as 
taste and judgment mature. Nay, it is defensible to accustom 
the scholar to argue the Unjust Cause for the sake of practice in 
setting out every side of a question. Hence what is objection- 
able as a habit of style is allowable or necessary as a stage in 
education, when the entire apparatus of Cicero and Quintilian 
is to be employed. 

The epistolary style, for obvious reasons, ranked next in 
importance. The function of correspondence in the life of the 
Renaissance was to serve as the organ of cosmopolitan criti- 
cism. It was so recognised by scholars, in spite of the fact 
that it degenerated into a vehicle of ostentation on the one 
hand, and of shameless flattery or slander on the other. 
Erasmus protested that the ancients respected the limits of 
right criticism, whilst Christians had forgotten them. Letters 

^ Woodward, Vittorino, p. 233, n. 3. "^ Eras. Op. iii. 10 D. 

^ Op. iii. 726 c, D. * Op. i. 5B, iii. 197 c. 

126 The Liberal Studies 

were written to be kept and were often collected by their 
writers'. Immortal fame might be expected for one who 
numbered several fine Latinists among his correspondents. 

As regards Methods, the beginnings of composition arose 
by natural process from the first efforts at conversation, that 
"daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves 
with exactness and refinement " to which Erasmus attached so 
great importance. The master amplified this by dictating 
formulas (preserved in the earlier Colloquies) for use in play, 
intercourse, entertainments and school. At this stage rules of 
syntax were learnt as described above ^ The order of exercises 
in composition is not systematically set out. But simple original 
compositions (with full directions for treatment), by way of 
expansion of conversation, may be begun very early. Subjects 
will be chosen with due regard to the intelligence and interest 
of the pupil : say, a theme from an incident of ancient history, 
with a moral reflection ; an apologue, or a simple myth. General 
knowledge will provide a topic : the powers of a magnet, or 
"mirum polypi ingenium." Such exercises will demand only 
grammatical accuracy within the forms of the simple sentence, 
with a gradually enlarging vocabulary. The learner will acquire 
the art of making a lexicon of his own, arranging his words not 
alphabetically, but under subject-headings ^ 

A second stage is reached when the close study of easier 
authors, as models, is possible ; such aids as De Copia, De 
Conscribendis Episiolis, and the Colloquies are introduced. 
Greek and Latin prose exercises may with advantage be 
worked together. The exercises now available are apparently 

^ The letter of Poggio to Vittonno (cp. Vittorino, p. 83) is an excellent 
example of the humanist letter of the " self-conscious " sort. 

^ De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 163, § 3. Cp. p. 106. 

^ De Copia; Of. i. 11. So Nausea, De Puero litt. inst., p. 52, urges 
indices for " nobiliores sententias, quas Graeci yvunas dicunt," so that they 
are readily available for composition. The De Rat. Stttd., § 8 onwards, 
should be read as the text of what follows. 

Composition in Latin Prose 127 

the following : {a) paraphrase of poetry, {b) duplicate treat- 
ment of one theme after differing models, {c) exposition of one 
argument upon divergent lines, {d) imitation of an easy Letter 
of Cicero or Pliny, (e) the most important exercise of all, 
version from Greek into Latin. It has the authority of Quin- 
tilian ; and Erasmus would, we know, not admit as a qualifica- 
tion that to Quintilian Latin was a vernacular tongue. This 
practice will be found to involve three valuable processes : the 
analysis of Greek construction ; the comparison of the genius 
of each language in respect of sentence structure ; exercise in 
moving rapidly through sentence forms and vocabulary of Latin 
for the purpose of reaching equivalent expression. 

The third stage, corresponding to that of systematic gram- 
matical study, is that of full freedom on the part of the pupil, 
when theme alone is suggested with occasional hints as to 
models to be observed. There are four forms of Composition 
for general use : the Epistle, the Oration, the Declamation 
upon a historical or general subject, the Defence of a just or 
an unjust Cause. The study of the entire art of the rhetori- 
cian as laid down by Cicero and Quintilian is now begun. 
Seven or eight carefully devised and corrected exercises will 
be a sufficient introduction to the art of laying out subject- 
matter for original composition. Much stress is now laid 
upon correction : the master criticising in turn (a) selection, 
(d) treatment, {c) imitation. He will censure omission or bad 
arrangement of matter, exaggeration, carelessness, awkwardness 
of expression. He will then ask for a re-written copy. 

The chief aids to composition were, besides the great 
classic masters, the Elegantiae of Valla, with typical letters of 
Aeneas Sylvius, and Poliziano. Perotti, De conscribendis Epi- 
stolis, Trapezuntius, and Barzizza were in constant use in 
schools organised under Melanchthon's advice, but neither 
Erasmus nor Sturm utilised such text-books\ The De Copia 

^ Erasmus' own work De Conscr. Epist. was largely used. Cp. Paulsen 
Class. Unler. p. 107 — 8. 

128 The Liberal Studies 

Verborum et Rerum is the elaborate aid to Latin prose pre- 
pared by Erasmus for the use of students, and issued from 
Cambridge. It is a manual of "enrichment" and "variation," 
based mainly upon Quintilian viii, with modern examples. 
He defines the purpose of " copia " : " brevity does not consist 
in saying as little as possible, but in saying the best that can be 
said in the shortest way." "Copia" implies right selection of 
words, figures, ideas : examples to the point, judgments clear- 
cut, digressions rigidly in hand, figures obviously appropriate. 
It is by no means identical with " indigesta turba " of illustra- 
tion, or with tedious repetition : but variety, brightness, move- 
ment, are of the essence of " copia." A student of the classical 
Renaissance, desirous to make a first-hand acquaintance with 
the art of expression as understood by humanist writers, cannot 
do better than make a careful analysis of the De Copia, read- 
ing side by side the De Oratore and the fourth and eighth 
books of the Institutio Oratorio^. 

% 6. History and Historians. 

Erasmus has himself admitted that he is no historian. 
We may with confidence accept his disclaimer. But in this 
respect he has the company of well-nigh every humanist. 

It has just been said that oratory and orators constituted 
the true literary interest of the men of Letters of the earlier 
Renaissance. Now there is, has always been, and, it must be 
confessed, cannot but be, a sharp line of division between the 
real historian and the professed stylist. The great orators 
knew it. Cicero and Quintilian, for example, are at one in 
regarding Thucydides as a man apart, from whom the orator 
can learn hardly anything. Xenophon on the other hand, 

1 On the purpose and value of the De Copia cp. Benoist, De Puer. 
p. loi. Formal as it was in method, there is no doubt that it imparted 
excellent training in systematic observation of, and practice in, style. 

Rhetorical Historians 129 

"cuius sermo est melle dulcior," is most attractive. Livy and 
Sallust, as historians, are by reason of their measured judg- 
ments alien from the oratorical ideal. They may, indeed, be 
pressed into service, like any other store-houses of instances, 
for purposes of argument, of parallel, of illustration, of example. 
But Quintilian perceived that the orator whose function it is to 
convince an auditory has little in common with one who writes 
"ad memoriam posteritatis et ingenii famam'." The humanist 
was, undoubtedly, drawn to the historians, and Erasmus lays 
stress on the need of studying them. He specifically advises 
Livy, Plutarch, Tacitus, Sallust and Herodotus. In one of his 
letters he urges that a youth preparing for public service should 
add to this reading the moral treatises of Cicero : and from the 
course thus sketched "the practical wisdom so essential to a 
man taking his part in public affairs will be most surely 
attained ^" Yet in spite of this, it is quite certain that all 
humanists, with the conspicuous exception of Flavio Biondo, 
honoured the historians for that very quality which as histo- 
rians was most perilous to them, namely, their rhetoric. This 
then is the first use which Erasmus would make of a classical 
historian— he is a model of rhetorical treatment of narrative or 
debate. The closer the affinity he reveals to the orator, the 
greater his attraction. For instance, Erasmus, writing it is 
true in his early days, demands from a modem writer of 
histories correctness of style, "elegantia Sallustiana," "felicitas 
Liviana," clearness in presentation, inspiring variety, artistic 
completeness, and so on^. We recognise at once the artifices 
of the stylist. But, writing in the maturity of his powers, 
in the De Ratione Siudii, he propounds historical themes, 

^ For the humanist view Aeneas Sylvius, De Liber. Educ. (in Woodward, 
Vittorino da Feltre) may be read. " It is peculiar to eloquence to depend 
on admiration," Quint, x. 7. 17. 

' Op. iii. 97 1 D. But we should particularly have liked to find P>asmus 
explaining in what manner such reading would mould the judgment of the 

3 op. i. 1817. 

w. 9 

130 The Liberal Studies 

suggested by reading, which are purely formal, and reveal an 
entire absence of historical perception ^ 

In the second place, the historian is to be valued in that he 
provides us with a stock of facts for the illustration of our 
arguments. Here "the rarer and more marvellous the instance, 
the greater will be the interest evoked. . . . From old stories and 
annals, and also from modern history, we should learn by heart, 
and so have in readiness, examples of virtue and vice, of re- 
markable occurrences of any kind. Now such facts may be 
drawn from the history of every nation — from the company of 
great historians of Greece and Rome, from the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures ; from the events handed down to memory from the story of 
the Egyptian, the Persian, the French, the British nations; from 
the stories of Sparta, of Thebes and Athens, even from the 
traditions of the Scythian. For every people has its remark- 
able occurrences, its customs and institutions-." This "spice 
of antiquarian knowledge," as he calls it elsewhere, is in no 
true sense historical equipment. It is all a mere matter of 
"copia," oratorical and stylistic embellishment, which indeed is 
evident from the fact that Erasmus very rarely refers to histori- 
cal reading, except from the point of view of composition. 

Thirdly, a literary history is to the humanist a gallery of 
moral example. Perhaps this is the highest function of 
history in the hands of the teacher: to illustrate moral law by 
recorded "cases." This is what Sadoleto* means when he 
vaguely puts forward the ancient historians as full of warnings 
against evil policy, and as such, of high value in training the 
young. It would be interesting to know how the Cardinal 
Secretary himself interpreted such moral guidance in handling 
the politics of Leo X. Now this method of application to 

^ Infra, p. 173. " Historians should enrich their narrative with fictitious 
speeches, than which nothing is better suited to their purpose." De Copia, 
i. 106 D. 

"^ Eras. Op. i. 389 F, x. 1733 E- 

' Sadoleto, De Puer. Instit. iii. 109. 

History as Biography 131 

immediate edification undoubtedly prejudiced humanist history 
as a serious subject, either of enquiry or of instruction. 
History became fragmentary, artificial, a cento of examples, of 
commonplaces, of biographical idealisations. Critical study 
tended to be shirked, as spoiling good illustrations; and the 
art of the historical writer was limited to clothing accepted 
versions of facts in novel and ingenious form. Bruni and 
Poggio, in their Italian histories, left models of imitation in its 
most barren form'. History, consequently, took but a poor 
place in education. Even a Prince, who is to be nourished on 
the Politics and the De Officiis, may be content with a modest 
review of the historians; the mode and extent of such interest 
being left quite vague*. The view of the function of history as 
edification is most instructive to the student of the Revival. 
For it is in entire harmony with the prevailing concept of the 
power of ethical teaching to mould life. The virtue of the 
antique world might easily be restored — so the scholar held — 
if only examples of ancient virtue were persuasively expressed 
and sufficiently forced upon attention. A belief that the 
impulse to imitate could be produced by passive contempla- 
tion of artificially selected situations was the bane of the 
literary educator. Erasmus himself knew better, but in respect 
of history he did not rise above the conventional attitudes of 
his day. 

We must not forget, however, that the biographical treat- 
ment of history was in part the result of the conviction — largely 
justified by facts — of the influence of the Individual in the 
Italy of the Renaissance : and in part, of the large place filled 
by the passion for Fame^. Now this is by no means a merely 

' An accessible account of humanist historians is to be found in Villari, 
MachiavelH, ii. 404. Cp. also Voigt, Wiederbelebting, ii. 482. 

* Eras. Op. iv. 587. 

^ On the subject of the Individual and of Fame in the Renaissance 
cp. Burckhardt, The Renaissance, p. 134, Gaspary, Letteratura, iii. 14. 
The classic expression of the ideal is Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus. 


132 The Liberal Studies 

humanist weakness. Machiavelli is more keenly individualist 
than Bruni or Bembo, for he had watched the forces of Italian 
politics at first hand. 

And thus we understand the reason why the humanist 
left no direct impress in the department of history: direct, 
advisedly, for indirectly he made a broad treatment of national 
phenomena possible by revealing to enquirers a completed civi- 
lisation. Machiavelli complains that the study of histories is 
divorced from affairs, that there is no working-in of what is 
learnt into modern polity. In the organisation of the State, in 
administration, in military science, in expansion, the lessons of 
the past are not realised for purposes of the present. In 
other words, the scholar's view of history was purely literary ^ 

The modern concept of history arose, in actual fact, 
amongst men of action, or at least amongst men in direct 
contact with affairs. The diplomatist, administrator, politi- 
cian, not the scholars, were the authors of the political 
science, of which, in a different sense to that which Erasmus 
conceived. History was in truth the expression. Machiavelli 
and Guicciardini were the first to understand History as the 
record and analysis of the inner and outer determinations of 
national life. Yet these great Masters, as has been said, could 
not have been, had not the Roman world stood revealed to 
them by the same scholars whom in their own region they 
superseded ^ They, too, were children of the humanist Re- 

^ Discorsi : the Preface. 

- Elyot's views of the aims of history teaching are of interest : Governour 
i. 82. Mr Foster Watson has pointed out how low a place the teaching of 
the subject held in English schools, even in the early part of the 17th 
century. The first school-book of English history known to me is a Latin 
metrical narrative of battles: Ockland's Anglorum Praelia, 1582. This 
was commanded to be read in Grammar schools. See Foster Watson, 
The Curriculum, p- 25. 

Function of Logic in Education 133 

§ 7. Logic and Philosophy. 

This is the convenient point at which to estimate the 
functions of logic in education. It has already been shown 
that the mediaevalist viewed "dialectica" in immediate re- 
lation to "grammatical" This led to a revolt on the part of 
the humanists against the entire method which then obtained of 
teaching these subjects. The scholar, however, by no means 
banished the study of Logic from education : but he connected 
it, not with grammar, but with rhetoric. To Aeneas Sylvius 
for instance, rhetoric and dialectic are almost convertible 
terms I The whole apparatus of rhetoric as elaborated by 
Cicero and Quintilian was recognised as so much illustration of 
logical method. Hence from an educational point of view 
Erasmus lays down that logical aid in ordering of subject- 
matter in composition is indispensable. The pupil must 
understand by dialectic "quo pacto alia propositio ex alia 
pendeat : quot rationibus unaquaeque propositio fulciri debet, 
quot confirmationibus unaquaeque ratio^" But this is the 
only end to which logic can be profitably studied. As a sub- 
stantial subject of enquir}' or a self-contained discipline, 
Erasmus refused to consider its claims. " I would not," he 
says, " have a boy wholly ignorant of logical rules, but I cer- 
tainly decline to have him trained to exhibit those preposterous 
feats of dialectical juggling and tumbling so much belauded"*." 
Erasmus, indeed, doubts whether a boy should be urged to read 
much logic, or whether a grown man should carry forward the 
study of it beyond the mere stage of application: " ne tanquam 
ad Sirenaeos scopulos consenescat*." Vives, Melanchthon, and 

^ Supra, p. loi. 

^ Aen. Sylv. Op. p. 989: based upon Quint. Inst. Oral. xii. 1. 13. 

* Eras. Op. i. 526 B and v. 850 A. 

* Op. i. 922-3. 

' De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 165, § 4. 

134 rhe Liberal Studies 

Sadoleto speak with precisely the same voice, which was that of 
all the Italian scholars since Petrarch. Dialectic then is an 
aid to effective style. The protest was by no means otiose, for 
there was no school book more common in Germany on the 
eve of the humanist movement than the repulsive " Summulae 
Logicae" of Petrus Hispanus, afterwards Pope John XXIP. 

That Erasmus was by temperament averse to philosophical 
speculation has been already pointed out. His conception of 
philosophy excluded dialectic or metaphysic, whether ancient 
or mediaeval. He does not, indeed, hesitate to speak of 
Socrates as of one sharing divine inspiration: "Sancte Socrates, 
ora pro nobis," he is tempted to cry. But that has reference 
only to the moral wisdom which he finds ascribed to him in 
Xenophon and Plato. It may be said that of ethical theory 
Erasmus has as little perception as the mediaevalists had. 
Hence the didactic side of ethics alone affects him, and for this 
he recommends Hesiod, Horace, and Terence as hardly less 
valuable than the De Officiis. Seneca, and Plutarch's Moralia. 
The " philosophical " lessons to be drawn from any authors 
must be carefully shown by the master who will set themes for 
composition from Valerius Maximus or Plutarch, in part at 
least from the ethical point of view. Political philosophy is 
hardly alluded to ; however sound Erasmus' judgments upon 
government and royal responsibility, it was wholly alien from 
his temper to see them in the light of theoretic generalisations. 
Hence the great bulk of mediaeval philosophical speculation 
has no interest for him. He admits, however, that Scotus and 
Thomas may have had a message for their own ages, and where 
they derived their ideas from antiquity, may still serve some 
useful purposed In the region of "natural philosophy" he 
writes sarcastically of the men who talked as if they were 
peculiarly admitted into the secrets of the " Architect of the 

^ Cp. Paulsen, Class. Unierricht, p. 107, no, for the popularity of 
this text-book in German schools at the beginning of the i6th cent. 
2 Op. iii. 704-5. 

The Place of Greek 135 

Universe," discoursing of the causes " obviously inexplicable," 
of the motions of the heavenly bodies, of the origin of 
thunder, of the winds, of eclipses, or go on further still to 
"primae materiae quidditates, ecceitates, phenomena so fine 
and so intangible that Lynceus himself would hardly detect 
their presence'." All this, of course, is merely evidence of 
speculative interests and of his unwillingness to make the 
necessary effort to go below the surface of a subject prima 
facie repellent to his genius. He refers to Aristotle, Plato, and 
Plutarch as philosophers to be read upon education ; but 
apart from his debt to the latter writer he has in reality drawn 
very little from Greek sources upon the subject^. 

§ 8. Greek Studies, and the Argument for them. 

It was, perhaps, amongst the more important results of his 
first visit to England that Erasmus returned to Paris with the 
single determination to qualify himself to read the Greek 
authors at first hand. It is at that time that we find him using 
such expressions as this : " Sine quibus (sc. literis graecis) 
caeca est omnis eruditio " ; " hoc unum expertus video, nuUis 
in literis nos esse aliquid sine Graecitate. Aliud enim est 
conjicere, aliud judicare, aliud tuis, aliud alienis, oculis cre- 
dere^" A few years later he has no doubt that, "ex institute 
omnis fere rerum scientia a Graecis auctoribus petenda est," 
and that : " imprimis ad fontes ipsos properandum, id est 
Graecos et antiquos*." It is impossible for a teacher, there- 

^ Op. iv. 462, 3. 

■^ De Christ. Matrim., Op. v. 713 c. The Republic, and the Laws, of 
Plato, the Politics, vii. and viii. of Aristotle, are the works named. There 
are in reality no traces of any influence of the Republic upon Erasmus; 
Sadoleto, on the other hand, has seized certain salient characteristics of 
the Platonic education with some precision. 

^ Op. iii. 968 D, 96 B. 

* De Rat. Stud., infra, § 3. The specific authors to be used in edu- 
cation have been enumerated above, p. 112. 

136 The Liberal Studies 

fore, to attain competency in his profession without a working 
knowledge of Greek. The argument for Greek is two-fold. 
In the first place the Greek literature contains the fullest know- 
ledge in all departments of human learning yet available. 
Melanchthon made this claim for the study of Greek in his 
address upon Studies at Wittenberg in 15 18'. If we consider 
the level of political, mathematical, and scientific knowledge 
attained at this date, it is probably quite true to fact that the 
Greek world, say in the Augustan period, had reached a degree 
of enlightenment wholly in advance of anything which 
northern Europe could show. But the humanist had a 
second argument. The Roman of the great age had based 
higher education upon the interdependence of Greek and 
Roman letters. Cicero urges his son Marcus when at Athens 
never to separate the study of the two languages^. Quintilian 
presses the same advice upon the student of orator}'. The 
Latin Fathers, Jerome at their head, are witnesses to the 
educational importance of a knowledge of Greek, whether in 
respect of learning or of expression. The dependence of 
literary form, of mythology, of vocabulary, as developed in 
Rome, upon Greek sources, revealed itself to the humanist 
scholar in the first steps that he made in the acquisition of the 
Greek tongue. 

Professional studies, notably theology and medicine, have, 

^ Melanchthon, De CorrigendJs Adolescent in m Sludiis (Aug. 15 18): in 
Corpus Reformatorum xi. 15 — 25. Not only for proper understanding of 
Grammar and Rhetoric, but for Philosophy, Natural Science, History arid 
Theology, is Greek indispensable. The reputation for coarseness under 
which Germany suffers can best be removed by the civilising influence of 
Greek learning. Cp. Eras. De Kat. Stud., infra, p. 164, § 3. "I affirm that 
with slight qualification the whole of attainable knowledge lies enclosed 
within the literary monuments of ancient Greece." 

^ Upon the relation of Greek to Roman education in the Augustan age, 
see Rossignol, U Education chez les ancicns, pp. 170 and 234. Quint. Instil. 
Oral. I. i. 12. Cp. Eras. Op. i. 922 f : Utriusque linguae peritiam exacte 
perdiscat teneris slatim annis. 

Greek in Schools 137 

says Erasmus, suffered grievously from the lack of knowledge 
of Greek on part of the experts. The same is true of mathe- 
matics. Hence not only must the Greek Testament be read 
in the original, but Origen and Chrysostom ; the Paduan and 
Salernitan masters of medicine must be corrected by a first- 
hand acquaintance with Galen, Hippocrates, and the physical 
writings of Aristotle. Indeed, he hopes that the time will 
soon be come when a medical man will be disqualified by 
ignorance of Greek'. 

There were many practical difficulties in the school teaching 
of Greek. Texts were still scarce ; elementary readers and 
grammars hardly existed at all. Reuchlin and Melanchthon 
had to procure a printer who would issue for their use short 
extracts from Xenophon or Demosthenes : or a printer was 
subsidised to purchase a Greek fount^. Otherwise the entire 
texts for beginners were of necessity dictated before being 
construed. Melanchthon complains that he could only teach a 
few lines at a time for this reason. It is probable that in good 
German schools, Strassburg or Nuremberg, from two to four 
hours weekly were given to the subject. The upper class 
under Sturm, however, spent a much longer time upon Greek. 
In most Protestant schools the Greek Testament formed the 
chief reading book. Melanchthon proposed to take Homer as 
the poet, and the Epistle to Titus as the prose work, in his first 
year at Wittenberg. 

Reference has been made to the somewhat restricted range 
of Erasmus' reading in Greek, and to his defective power of 
textual criticism. There is a vagueness in his allusions to 
the scope and method of Greek studies^ which is in marked 

' Op. ix. 84A. Cp. Glockner, Erasmus, p. 46. 

^ The school-texts of the 16th cent, were printed, outside of Italy, at 
Lyons, by Gryphius; at Antwerp, by Plantin; at Paris, by R. Estienne 
and, to less extent, at Basel, Louvain and Deventer. 

^ For example it is doubtful whether Erasmus proposed that Greek 
should be taught colloquially. In any case such a method could not be 
defended on the same grounds as conversational Latin. 

138 The Liberal Studies 

contrast to the precision of his injunctions upon the subject of 
Latin teaching. Erasmus, we must remember, began late, and 
laboured under grave disadvantages as a student of Greek. 
He probably always found Latin scholarship more congenial. 
It is beyond doubt that he never attained the eminence in 
Greek which characterised his contemporary Budaeus. Indeed, 
the real home of this branch of humanist study was neither 
Italy, Germany, nor England, but France. Guarino and 
Aurispa, Linacre and Aldus, were but pioneers, and Erasmus' 
place is with them. French scholars of the sixteenth century 
took over their task, and built up that elaborate apparatus of 
grammar and lexicon, of textual criticism and of research in 
the broad field of " Realien," which will always stand forth as 
the notable contribution of France to the cause of Letters. 

§ 9. Mathematics and Nature Knowledge. 

The opening sentence of the De Ratione Studii, "principio 
duplex omnino videtur cognitio, rerum ac verborum. Ver- 
borum prior, rerum potior," must not be taken to imply that 
Erasmus was an advocate of " real " studies in education. 
The opposing terms are drawn from Quintilian' who uses 
"res" in the sense of "ideas," or vorjfiaTa, in distinction to 
names, "verba." The expression no doubt includes facts of 
nature, but it includes also such a " fact " as the versatility of 
the god Mercury, or that "friendship between equals is the 
more durable." 

The study of facts is by Erasmus not differentiated into 
systematic branches of knowledge. Natural science, descrip- 
tions, travellers' tales, traditional lore, mathematics, astrology, 

^ Ins/. Orat. x. It has been well remarked by Bassi that Quintihan's 
authority became almost pontifical for Italian and German humanists. To 
dififer from him needed high moral courage. Rivista di Filol. e if Instr. 
Class., xxii. 7 — 9. 

The Place of Real Studies 139 

geography, medical rules, tend to merge into one another, and 
are classed under the common term "res." Their understand- 
ing is wholly dependent upon thorough training in language — 
for without vocabulary neither names nor epithets can be 
appropriately given : without arts of exposition and description 
neither due appreciation nor record of facts is possible. 
Hence language study must precede any attempt at "eruditio." 
For lack of Letters knowledge has wholly decayed : without a 
highly developed language the enquirer is deprived of the only 
means of (a) acquisition, {b) expression, (c) analysis, (d) ex- 
position, of learning. 

Concerning the function of " eruditio " {Sachkenntnis) 
Erasmus holds a somewhat uncertain position. He is, in the 
first place, fully alive to the importance of " information " as 
part of the equipment for life. But he is of opinion that this 
must be secured after the liberal education proper is com- 
pleted, and the wide outlook of adult life reached. Yet he 
sees the importance of a judicious intermingling of teaching 
concerning plants, animals, geographical and other natural 
phenomena, with classical instruction. Pictures, charts, maps, 
even real objects, as in gardens, are of great help in such 
lessons, which arouse interest and impart a perception of the 
varied content of learning to which language affords the key. 
Nowhere, however, does Erasmus hint that observation or 
intercourse can serve as a substitute for ancient authorities in 
any subject, although occasionally a traveller or a modem 
writer may supplement what has been handed down ; and in 
archaeology, inscriptions, statues, coins and ruins may appro- 
priately be worked in. Erasmus has given a list of the 
authors in whose writings such knowledge of " res " can be 
found, though he admits that the list is not complete. It will 
serve to indicate the scope of real studies as understood by 
Erasmus. The writers are Pliny, Macrobius, Eratosthenes, 
Athenaeus, and Gellius, in respect of general subject-matter. 
In connection with Geography or Cosmography, Pliny, 

140 The Liberal Studies 

Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and Strabo ; with Mythology, 
Homer, Hesiod, Ovid eked out with Boccaccio de Genealogia 
Deorum, Philosophy will be read in Plato, Aristotle, Theo- 
phrastus, Plotinus ; Theology in Origen, Chrysostom, Basil, 
Ambrose, and Jerome \ Augustine takes a subordinate place 
with Erasmus. It is curious that in the De Ratio7ie Shidii he 
makes no reference to historical study in this connection. 
Whatever his conception of the end of eruditio, it is obvious 
that the means to it are purely literary. 

A passage written towards the end of his life upon the 
effect of right religious instruction might lead us to believe that 
Erasmus realised the emotional value of a study of Nature for 
the young. " Eet the boy learn to consider the glory of the 
heavens, the rich harvest of the earth, the hidden fountains of 
rivers and their courses hurrying to the sea, the illimitable 
ocean, the countless families of living creatures, all created 
expressly to serve the needs of men^" But we must not take 
this very seriously. In his Letters Erasmus has hardly a 
reference to the impression made upon him by scenery ; 
neither the Alps nor the bay of Naples move him. On the 
other hand, he records a remarkable criticism on a well-known 
passage from Bernard of Clairvaux : " Thou shalt find many 
things in the woods that are not written in any book, and trees 
and rocks will teach thee what thou canst learn of no Master ^" 
And he adds that he himself talks, to his vast profit, with the 
trees of the forest. "These," says Erasmus, "must in truth 
have been wise trees which could produce so wise a scholar : 
they deserve to sit in the professorial seat of the theologian, or 
perhaps to be transformed into nymphs, instead of falling 
prone upon the hills, or serving to fatten swine. What can 
men learn from /r(?^i-?... Perhaps these are descendants of the 
Tree of Knowledge, or of those which followed Orpheus ; are 

^ De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 167, § 5, and elsewhere. 

^ Op. V. 7 14 A. 3 Bernard, Epist. cvi. 

The Relation of Words to Things 141 

they perchance philosophers imprisoned by some god in wood- 
land guise ? But, joking apart, I am astonished that Bernard 
should have turned to trees rather than to men in his search 
for wisdom... Socrates would make his home in the city in 
preference to the loveliest spot which Greece could offer him, 
just because he could learn nothing from fields and trees. 
Does France then rejoice in trees more learned than any Greece 
could show?" There is only one way in which Bernard's 
words make sense : " he prayed under the trees, read there, 
pondered there ; there he wrote, and thought." He sought 
solitude and peace for purposes of learned reflection, just as a 
poet may seek retreat in the silence of the woods \ But the 
true end of " scientia rerum " in the judgment of the humanist 
is its use as an aid to the proper understanding of ancient 
authors. Facts are to be derived from literary sources, and in 
turn they are to be employed in the illustration of literature. 
Erasmus, indeed, has a philosophy of speech of his own, 
suggested by the Craiylus, but very imperfectly worked out, by 
which the relation of words to the things signified was in- 
herent and fixed^. Onomatopoeic words are by no means the 
only group which illustrates this hidden truth. " If there be / 
not a traceable likeness between the word and the object or ^ 
action which it symbolises, then there is some invisible reason 
why such object or action is named by the word which ex- 
presses it... Words which express softness or slowness prefer an L 
sound, lenis and lain are examples ; size, on the other hand, ^/' 
appropriates the M sound, for that of all letters takes up most 
room {Magnus, /xeyas)." Which only shows that Erasmus 
could take rank with the most whimsical of mediaevalist 
grammarians when he chose. But he stands on wholly 
different ground when he insists upon the importance of 
accurate and extensive knowledge of names and epithets in 
the understanding of things ^ Modern grammarians, he says, 

' Op. X. 1742 E — 1743 B. "^ Op. i. 930c. 

3 Op. V. 958 D. 



142 The Liberal Studies 

ignore this ; and their pupils grow up wholly deficient in 
vocabulary for use. Wherefore Erasmus urged the value of 
direct object-teaching, as in the famous instance of the 
Convivium Religiosiim\ where the garden, the aviary, and the 
walls of the terrace walks are used to impart nature knowledge. 
There each plant had its right name, with fitting motto or 
proverb attached, and strange beasts were depicted for the 
instruction of the household and its guests. The same 
method was advised by him also in the teaching of children 
in school ; we have an illustration in the picture of the fight 
between the elephant and the dragon, " the large Indian 
variety," described in the De Fueris^. But the aim of such 
methods is not the imparting of facts, of the real knowledge of 
the things concerned, to serve as the material for reflection 
upon, and generalisation from, phenomena, and as the found- 
ation of powers of framing concepts of natural law. What is 
primarily sought is the acquisition of exact terminology, in 
accord with current popular knowledge. Such general inform- 
ation served its main purpose in enabling the learner to 
appreciate intelligently the similes or metaphors of an ancient 
poet. This is the argument proposed for " eruditio " in the 
£>e Ratione Studii. "Astrology is futile in itself, but is the 
key to many allusions. History explains many references in 
other writings. Indeed, a genuine student ought to be able to 
grasp the meaning of every fact and idea which he meets with 
in his reading, otherwise their Hterary treatment through 
epithet or figure will prove obscure or confused. There is no 
discipline, no field of study — music, architecture, agriculture, 
war — which may not prove of use to the Master in the ex- 
position of the poets and orators of antiquity^" So even right 
naming would appear to be chiefly of value in a literary sense. 
A sound acquaintance with phenomena for their own sake is 

^ Op. i. 673 seqq. Infra, p. 226. - Infra, p. 213, § 30. 

3 De Rat. Stud., infra, p. 168, § 5. 

General Knowledge and Composition 143 

not esteemed : indeed, actual contact with realities is only of 
use as enforcing what has been said about them by an approved 

The use to be made of general knowledge in composition is 
treated of in the same tract. Quintilian^ has a long section 
upon the relation of "eruditio" to the Orator. From this the 
Italian humanists drew their ideal of a liberal education, as 
oratorical skill adorning a many-sided learning. The educated 
man will be careful to have readily available for oratory or 
description'- "all that varied mass of material which the 
curiosity of antiquity has handed down to us. To such 
belongs, first, the natural history of birds, quadrupeds, wild 
animals, serpents, insects, fishes ; this will be chiefly derived 
from ancient writers, with additions from our own observation. 
Next, we shall prize the accounts of singular ad\«entures 
handed down to us by trustworthy authorities, such as the 
story of Arion and the dolphin, of the dragon who rescued his 
deliverer from danger, of the lion who returned kindness for 
kindness, and others which Pliny vouches for. There is also, 
in the third place, a vast body of facts concerning geographical 
phenomena, some of which are extraordinary, and these are of 
peculiar value to the scholar ; though even the usual occur- 
rences of nature are not to be passed over. These, again, are 
partly drawn from antiquity, partly are within our own ex- 
perience. I refer to rivers, springs, oceans, mountains, 
precious stones, trees, plants, flowers : concerning all of which 
comparisons should be derived and stored away in memory for 
prompt use in description or argument. Now, as certain of the 
illustrations which we may adduce from either of the three 
sources named are likely to be challenged as to their credibility, 
we must prepare ourselves to defend them, by careful noting 
of the authority on which each rests, and must give them the 

^ Inst. Orat. i. lo. 

^ Op. i. 389 c, u [De Conscribendis Epistolis). Erasmus is treating 
of 'exempla.' 

144 ^'^^ Liberal Studies 

air of reality by the style in which we clothe them. But, in 
the fourth place, we shall find by far our largest supply of 
instances for the embellishment of discourse in the sphere of 
human life and history'. Examples of virtue and vice, and of 
signal action, drawn from the annals of every nation, will be 
watched for, learnt by heart, and thrown into suitable literary 
form. So also rites and ceremonies, customs, wonders, institu- 
tions, all that is instructive will be pressed into use, and where 
the case demands will be arranged in order of climax that the 
effect may be the more striking." He adds that merchants 
and sailors can often supply the enquirer with attractive tales 
of strange lands for similar use*. In this department of in- 
struction the ideal is a well-ordered and many-sided learning, 
which, in addition to" other subjects, possesses a spice of 
antiquarian knowledge'. 

Thus so soon as Erasmus attempts to come to close 
quarters with real studies he finds himself unable to abandon a 
purely literary attitude. He gives the first place amongst them, 
perhaps, to Cosniographia — a better term than Geographia, as 
it embraces also the study of the heavenly bodies. We see no 
trace of any interest in recent over-sea discovery. The subject 
ranks as one of the mathematical disciplines, amongst which 
"vix alia vel jucundior vel magis necessaria*." It is "subtilior" 
than grammar, and appeals to some children— he thinks them 
abnormal — more directly than linguistic studies. Probably by 
"subtilior" he means "recondite," "abstract"; and implies 
his own ignorance of the subject. But a boy with a taste for 
it should not be debarred from pursuing the subject by aid of 
Ptolemy and the rest". It is very doubtful if Erasmus had the 
faintest idea of the use to which an educated man would put 

^ Upon this method of regarding history as a series of striking incidents 
and characters, cf. supra, p. 131, and Woodward, Vittorino, p. 216. 
2 Op. i. 390 A. » Op. X. 1735 E. 

* Op. i. 923 A "prius perdiscat accurate," Op. iii. 1461 E. 
" Op. i. 5 IOC 

Mathematical Disciplines 145 

geographical knowledge if he had it, excepting always as illus- 
tration of classical monuments. In the disturbed and perilous 
condition of the age the study of a map will serve as a useful 
substitute for traveP. 

There is, however, from the literary standpoint much to be 
said for Geography. It is of great use in reading histories, 
hardly less in reading poets ^ The geography of the Holy 
Land and Asia Minor has the added interest of association 
with Scripture ^ What is learnt, especially all ancient names, 
must be learnt accurately. The writers to be relied upon are 
Mela, Pliny, and Ptolemy ; the latter is " the most learned of 
all geographers ^" 

The remaining mathematical disciplines are very briefly 
dismissed by Erasmus. " Arithmeticen, Musicam et Astrolo- 
giam degustasse sat erit*." As regards the first. Arithmetic 
was invariably excluded by humanists from the liberal arts. 
It was in a most rudimentary stage, and the effect of the 
■adoption of Arabic notation had not made itself generally felt. 
The mercantile use of numbers was merely empirical, whilst 
the Roman notation was incompatible with any but the 
simplest processes of calculation. 

Upon Music in education Erasmus had formed no settled 
opinion. He is aware, of course, that the Greeks regarded 
singing and playing as liberal arts ; that they distinguished 
between various Modes, and that the Dorian approved itself to 
Plato. In a purely objective way he recognises the Greek 
theory of the relation of musical tones to character : and 

^ Op, i. 735 A. Elyot, Governour i. 76, should be read for a more serious 
view of the function of Geography, which he would have taught " by mate- 
rial figures and instruments." 

'^ Infra, p. 167, § 5. 

^ Op. V. 79 {De Rat. Theologiae). 

* Erasmus expended much sarcasm upon certain professors of the Uni- 
versity of Louvain who refused to allow lectures upon Pomponius Mela, 
Op. iii. 535 etc. (to Vives, 15 19). 

' Op. i. 923 A. 

w. 10 

146 The Liberal Studies 

records that there were writers who thought it an offence 
against the law to introduce a new mode not in accord with 
the temper of the State. In considering the popular music of 
his own day Erasmus finds grave fault with the new songs 
which were being turned out, in Flanders, in great numbers, and 
caught the ear of the uneducated. These are, he complains, 
bad in motive, in composition, and in allusions. Girls even 
learn to sing these unworthy and corrupting airs : and there 
are fathers who encourage their children in the practice. He 
would like to see authors and printers of such songs punished 
by law. 

Erasmus is not only concerned at the words : the action 
which accompanies the air is indelicate and — here he is nearer 
the Platonic principle — the very music itself is trivial and de- 
basing. He objects particularly to 'tibiae Corybanticae,' and 
banging cymbals, to the sound of which young girls are made 
to dance by parents who are too dense to see the moral 
danger incurred. He deplores also the intrusion of worthless 
music into the services of the Church, where solemn and 
dignified melodies alone are in place. This barren treatment 
of the subject contrasts with the serious consideration of the 
place of music in education given to it by the Italian educators 
from Vittorino down to Sadoleto'. 

Astrology was in itself a futile study ; the point of view 
which characterised nearly every humanist from Petrarch 
downwards. But, like Aeneas Sylvius, Erasmus thinks that the 
student should have some acquaintance with it, Aeneas be- 
cause political adventures often turn on some " conjunction," 
Erasmus because astrological facts crop up in the poets. 

Concerning Geometry in education there is nothing to be 
said. In the De Copia^ we have allusion to a knowledge of 
the square and the circle, which the scholar is advised to 

1 Op. V. 717 F etc. ; Sadoleto, Op. iii. 112. 
* Op. i. loi E. 

Natural Philosophy 147 

understand, as these make an excellent comparison in describ- 
ing "a man independent of the variations of fortune." In this 
respect also Erasmus falls below the practice of the earlier 
schools of the Revival. To him a purely abstract, non-human, 
subject could make no appeal. 

Upon the natural sciences Erasmus has, as we have seen, 
hardly more to say, so far at least as regards their educational 
function. He does not recognise them as organised knowledge. 
The nearest approach which he makes to such admission is 
this ' : " nonnuUus et Physices praebebitur gustus, non tantum 
eius quae de principiis, de prima materia, de infinito ambitiose 
disputat, sed quae rerum naturas demonstrat. Quae res agitur 
in libris de anima, de meteoris, de plantis, de animalibus." 
No doubt he is referring to Aristotle as the source of all 
physical knowledge : the rudiments of it are to be carefully 
reduced to compendia, and acquired before the eighteenth 
year. The context (the Dialogus De Pronunciatione) renders 
it highly probable that he has in mind the literary utility of 
such information. It was the subject of two of the Colloquies^. 
These, however, treat of " physica " from the point of view of 
instructive amusement. One turns upon the "amicitiae et 
inimicitiae rerum " by which all phenomena are governed. 
Empedocles and Pliny arfe pressed into service, with tales 
from ancient sources concerning dolphins, crocodiles and 
ichneumons. The second dialogue discourses of the gravity 
of bodies, in a spirit characteristic rather of the mediaeval 
philosopher. " There is nothing in nature so heavy as that 
which is solid enough to depress beings, compacted of light 
and air, from the summit of all things to the uttermost depths." 
"Presumably; and what is that called?" "Sin, which dragged 
down Satan to the abyss." Next to their value as literary 
adornment, natural phenomena had interest for Erasmus as 

' Op. i. 923 A. 

'^ The Colloquies &Vi\\\\&AAmicitia2cadiProblema : in Bailey's Translation, 
ii. 300, 316. 

148 The Liberal Studies 

analogies and parables for moral edification. "Nightingales^ 
sing with such exuberance of spirit that they die com- 
peting with one another, and prefer death to relinquishing 
their song. Let men take warning from them, lest in an 
inordinate desire to excel they sacrifice their health and even 
life itself." 

In truth, studies based on natural science in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries lacked the indispensable qualifications 
of instruments of instruction for the young. They had in most 
cases neither certainty, nor precision, nor organisation as teach- 
ing material. Apart from the mathematical basis upon which 
certain of them rested, they were but collections of " interest- 
ing information," or "useful knowledge." In no way were they 
comparable, as apparatus for teaching, with the rigid and highly 
elaborated subjects of grammar and rhetoric. 

One further allusion to an educational instrument, technical 
in nature, may here be quoted^ " It will be of advantage to 
the boy of expectations and of station to learn something of 
the mechanic arts upon their less undignified side, for example, 
painting, sculpture, modelling, architecture. The philosophers 
would not approve : but we Christians cannot scorn manual 
activities when we recollect that our Lord Himself, the Son 
of a carpenter, was brought up as a carpenter Himself. Such 
crafts as I refer to fill up leisure, and in case of need they may 
afford a livelihood." From the tone of the passage we may 
doubt whether Erasmus had much more feeling for Art than 
he has for Poetry. 

§ 10. The Education of Girls. 

In the republic of Letters neither nationality, age, nor sex 
constituted a bar to the rights of citizenship. The Italian 
humanists had effectively claimed for women the right to educa- 
tion in liberal studies, and had established thereby their status 

^ From the Similia, Op. i. 614 D. Cp. infra, p. 189. - Op. v. 716B. 

The Education of Girls 149 

in cultivated society. A woman, not less than a man, could in 
the Italy of the Renaissance stand forth independently in right 
of virtii or personal distinction '. Erasmus records that he was 
won over to this view by his intercourse with Thomas More 
and his household ^ Thereafter he fought strenuously in de- 
fence of the educated woman. He thus took a further and 
most significant step forwards in his progress from mediaevalism. 
It is characteristic of Erasmus that he should pillory the antago- 
nists of enlightenment for women in the person of a certain 
Abbot Antronius. "Women," so he opines, "have nothing 
to do with wisdom; it is their one business to be pleasing.... 
I should be very sorry to see the brethren of my House showing 
interest in books ^" 

No doubt Erasmus — here again obeying his usual instinct — 
was moved to adopt a new point of view as the result of actual 
experience of the falsity of " the universal opinion that learning 
detracts from the repute and good manners of a woman." 
Observation showed him, on the contrary, that there is no 
such foe to moral fibre, whether in boy or girl, as idleness or 
triviality of interest. Absorption in learned studies is the 
remedy against both in a far greater degree than needlework 
— the approved pursuit for a girl — which mostly leaves the 
intelligence unoccupied. Character in fact is only rightly 

* Burckhardt, Civilisation of the Renaissance, p. 396 (Eng. trans.): 
"The Education given to women in the upper classes was essentially the 
same as that given to men. The Italian, at the time of the Renaissance, 
felt no scruple in putting sons and daughters alike under the same course 
of literary and even philological instruction.... The educated woman, no 
less than the man, strove naturally after a characteristic and complete 
individuality." The entire chapter deserves careful study. Cp. La Vita 
Jtaliana nel Rinascimento, p. 98, "La donna Fiorentina," by Del Lungo; 
Mrs Abdy's Isabella D'Este; and the tract by L. Bruni in Woodward, 
Vittorino da Feltre, p. 119. In any study of the education of women in 
modern times the Italian ideal of the Quattrocento must be the starting- 

^ Op. iii. 769 D. For Mere's influence, cp. supra, p. 45. 

* Op. i. 745 F ; the Colloquy Erudita Ptiella. 

150 The Liberal Studies 

ensured when it is based upon thought and free power of 
judgment, and for such intellectual exercise serious culture 
provides the material. It is preposterous to imagine that 
idleness and seclusion are the right prescription to secure 
virtue ; the full and effective education of a girl is not a 
merely negative thing\ Does anyone think that a girl can be 
" cooped up with foolish and empty-headed women " and not 
learn mischief? a knowledge of evil will come to her more 
surely so than by healthy human converse in society. Only 
a man who is himself an ignoramus will affirm that "a learned 
woman is twice a fooP." The position taken by Erasmus, 
with his customary practical sense, is that all must accept the 
argument that a woman should be trained to fill her natural 
place in society, as daughter, wife, and mother. It is evident, 
then, that an educated young woman is an ornament to her 
father's home. The daughters of Sir Thomas More", in whose 
house Erasmus was a welcome guest, and of Paumgarten, and 
the sisters of Bilbald Pirckheimer, are conspicuous examples. 
Such studious women remind us of Paulla, Marcella, and 
Eustochium, the lights of the circle which gathered round 
St Jerome. 1 he well-educated wife, again, can safely claim : 
"et conjugem mihi et me illi cariorem reddit eruditio*." It 
is obvious to Erasmus that durable affection must be based 
upon such equality of interests : "it is real happiness for a man 
to live with a cultured and intelligent spouse." A wife honours 
her husband more sincerely when her training has rendered 
her capable of appreciating and imitating his true excellence. 
Without a head well-skilled to keep her home in order, and to 
respond to her husband's higher tastes, she will, in spite of 
good intentions, fail as a wife. On the other side, a woman of 
sound intelligence — so the husband will discover — is easier to 
guide ; for there is nothing so hard to control as ignorance, in 

Op.s. 744E. - Ibid. 746 B. 

Op. iii. 678 e; iii. 1482 F; iii. 196 E. * Op. i. 746 A. 

The Education of Girls 151 

dealing with which reason and argument are of no avail. "*A 
wonderful sermon,' says the average woman, as she comes out 
of church : voice and gesture are all that she thinks about ; 
whether the preacher had anything to say does not interest 
her." Then Erasmus is concerned with the relation of girls' 
education to their subsequent efficiency in the bringing up of 
their children. It is clear that the intense distrust which he 
felt in respect of female influence is directly due to his con- 
tempt for the ordinary training of the women of his day. That 
same lack of serious interests and discipline, which he else- 
where remarks, must react with most disastrous effect upon 
their function as the guardians of the young. Capriciousness, 
hasty temper, childish vanity, are the results of a frivolous 
up-bringing, and produce like effects upon the next generation. 
The only resource in such a case is that the father shall de- 
cisively take the whole responsibility of the children .out of 
hands so unfitted for it. The lot of girl-children, unfortunately, 
is less easily settled by such a method \ 

How Erasmus treats of early care for health, good manners, 
character and religion, has been discussed already. When he 
comes to speak of the actual content of a girl's education upon 
its literary side, he is unable to lay down any rule because, as 
he says, circumstances, individual and social, are much varied*. 
We may, perhaps, add as another reason, that Erasmus had 
no knowledge of the actual conditions of the problem. He 
was a celibate, a monk, with extremely few opportunities of 
seeing or sharing in young society. Hence his advice is largely 
negative. But even so it is that of a shrewd mind. He 
denounces fashionable society-education for girls. The ideal 
set before women was a poor thing, just subservience to con- 
vention. But the first duty of the educator is to train every 

^ Cf. supra, p. 91. 

^ op. V. 716 D. But he has no doubt that "nothing is more conducive 
to true refinement and moral integrity of disposition than a classical 

152 The Liberal Studies 

one to exercise their free will, and to make rational choice in 
the affairs of life. Again, such an unworthy aim in education, 
as that alluded to, is in practice quite compatible with acquaint- 
ance with evil, gained from vulgar humour or conversation at 
home. " In an ordinary town-house of well-to-do people the 
day begins with hair-dressing and rouging; formal attendance 
at public worship follows, for the sake of seeing and being 
seen : then comes breakfast. Gossip and the lightest of 
'literature' fill up the morning until dinner. The afternoon 
is occupied by promenades, and, for the young people, games 
sadly lacking in decorum. Then more gossip and supper. 
It is no better when the family moves to the country, where 
amid idle days, the crowd of retainers, lackeys, and serving- 
girls, is a standing influence for evil. How different is such an 
environment for a young girl from that careful supervision 
which Aristotle commands ^" 

Erasmus is anxious that the home surroundings of children 
should invariably be cheerful, full of affection, according wise 
liberty. But he reminds parents that the " reverentia " due to 
boys is doubly due to their sisters. A lack of respect for 
divine things, avowed contempt for all that is lofty and serious 
in life, above all questionable humour and personal self-in- 
dulgence, are the worst of examples to girls. Erasmus was 
not unaware at first hand of the coarseness of manners which 
marked the average German household, especially in the landed 

He offers one serious warning upon a habit, to which fathers 
are prone, of enforcing their views as to their children's future. 
In particular the conventual life ought not to be pressed upon 
a boy or girl just because such a vocation would fall in con- 
veniently with the interests of the family'^. The right principle 

^ Loc. cit. 

* Op. V. 722 E. He says that his example of the conventual life is only 
by way of illustration. The warning is equally true of matrimony or of a 
scholar's career, 724 B. 

The Edtication of Girls 153 

is to follow the child's bent in determining his or her future 

In conclusion, the nature of the references which Erasmus 
makes to the whole subject indicates that he has in mind the 
education of the daughters of the leisured class, such education 
to be carried out in the home, and certainly not under the 
control of a religious Order. In this he is in line with the 
Italian humanists, who, however, had before them a far more 
cultivated type of society. They were consequently in a posi- 
tion to work out a curriculum for girls with more precision, in 
that they had clearer and more extended views of the status 
and social function for which women should be prepared. It 
may help us to realise the gulf between the society of a cultured 
circle in Italy and that of a smaller Court in Germany if we try 
to imagine // Cortegiano in a contemporary northern setting. 
Yet the Book of the Courtier was composed some ten years 
before the work in which Erasmus sets out his plea for a higher 
education for women'. 

^ Elyot's Defence of Good IVomen was published two years before 
Erasmus died. He carries out the contention of Erasmus concerning the 
advantage of liberal learning to a wife. Zenobia of Palmyra declares that 
she spent the four years from 1 6 to 20 in the study of Letters, and specially 
of Philosophy; this she found most useful in bringing up her own children. 
She advises every maiden ro devote herself before marriage to the earnest 
pursuit of learning. For "women being well and virtuously brought up do 
not only with men participate in reason, but some also in fidelity and constancy 
be equal to them." V'ives, the tutor to Mary, daughter of Henry VHI, writes 
in much detail upon a curriculum for a girl. He has a particular aversion to 
the romances Amadis de Gaule, Lancelot of the Lake, etc., "qui non minus 
aversandi sunt quam vipera et scorpio." He urges the use of the Christian 
poets: and an "exigua cognitio naturae," such as may be useful in life. 
But grammar and composition in Latin are to be fully taught. In addition, 
he bestows attention on "res domestica" : "discet ergo simul literas, simul 
lanam et linum tractare, et quaecumque ad tuendam et regendam domum 
sjjectant." His De Institiitione feminae and De Officio viariti are import- 
ant authorities on the education of girls as advocated in the first half of the 
i6th century in England. 

154 '^^^^ Liberal Studies 

% II. Moral Training: Character as the Supreme 
End of Education. 

The rudiments of moral training as set out by Erasmus 
were considered in an earlier section. The discipline of home 
life and the example there set are the vital forces making for 
religion and character in the young. No overt teaching of duty 
can effect its purpose if the prime motive and sanction of con- 
duct which the home supplies be lacking. 

It is in the family life that the foundations of belief and 
reverence must be laid. No school kept by professed "re- 
ligious" has like advantage in this respect. In the treatise 
Upon Christian Marriage (1526) he summarises the elements 
of Christian doctrine which may be profitably taught to children 
under the age of fourteen'. The characteristic note of this 
important passage is the sense of the intimate personal relation 
of the child to the Divine Father. The world of Nature and 
of human life is intelligible only in light of the beneficent 
Creator upon whom the Christian child must rest in conscious 
dependence. Upon this trust in the divine Fatherhood must 
be built up a corresponding faith in that " cognatio arctissima " 
within which all Christians ought to feel themselves united. 
Erasmus touches here one of his warmest aspirations, which 
was to see an end put to those internecine feuds by which the 
dynastic ambitions of his age kept Europe in constant unrest, 
and by which the day of enlightenment, and of the human 
well-being dependent upon it, were pushed into a dim future. 
This conviction of the divine sanction of human brotherhood 
is, in education, the connecting link between religious faith and 
social duty. For the child will now readily understand the 
conduct due towards parents, towards elders, equals, inferiors, 
and towards the poor. In the home, scripture will be set forth 

^ Op. V. 713 E — 714 c. 

Moral Training 155 

as a gallery of characters, by the pattern of whose excellence 
conduct must be guided. Especially will the vices of lying, 
which Erasmus held in peculiar abhorrence, loss of temper, 
malice, self-indulgence, be stamped with condemnation as the 
worst of all faults in the young. If a boy is brought up at 
home, with such precepts enforced by right example, before he 
has completed his fourteenth year the solid foundations of 
character will have been securely laid. His nature — that 
primitive human " Natura^ " — will have received its definite 
bent towards the Good, both in knowledge and in action. 
Hence the father will use his utmost endeavour to see that 
such a beginning shall have ample opportunity of subsequent 
development by aid of sound learning and wise discipline. 
Again does Erasmus affirm with all earnestness his standing 
principle — which runs also throughout the whole of the De 
Puerls — that such progress is initially dependent upon the 
condition that the home atmosphere be conducive to the best. 
That implies a high standard of interests in conjunction with 
a dignified, temperate manner of life. " Monita non multa 
adjuvabunt, si puer viderit aliud in vita parentum quam prae- 
scripserant. Imitandi vis peculiariter inest pueris^" 

Nothing, indeed, is more significant of the modern spirit 
in which Erasmus approaches the problem of education than 
his determination to regard it as centring in the home. If it 
be true that a characteristic mark of a sound and progressive 
culture is the place accorded to the care of children, then we 
must recognise that the humanists set out a notably high type 
of social well-being. At no time in modern history was care 
for, and interest in, the young so striking a fact of society 
as in the Italy of the Quattrocento. The sense of duty towards 
the child in respect of discipline, example, and instruction is 
expressed on every hand. Then the rights of the child to a 
due place in the family were recognised to the full. Under 

^ Supra, p. 80-1. 2 Qp V. 714 D, E. 

156 The Liberal Studies 

the influence of home guidance obedience to the outer law 
was gradually resolved into an inner harmony, a conscious 
self-reliance, which in its course was developed as a free indi- 
viduality. This was effected by admitting the child to the 
normal intercourse of the family. It was never accepted that 
a child should be confined to the society of other children ; it 
was his acknowledged claim to share the interests of his elders, 
as theirs to take concern for him. Probably there was in the 
Italy of that great epoch no force so potent for the restraint of 
too exuberant exercise of virtu as this deep sense of responsi- 
bility for the up-growth of the children'. 

Erasmus has seized this truth. A celibate, a wanderer, 
a man owning no family ties, without one single relative to 
give him welcome, he has yet understood the significance of 
the home as a positive factor in education. That he saw in it 
a factor also making for the good not of the child alone we can 
clearly perceive. It was well thought, that in a new sense of 
duty towards the son or the daughter of the house Erasmus 
should find his most hopeful remedy for the " barbarism " in 
which he saw the German people sunk in his day. 

Something may here be said concerning the little book of 
manners, which he published at Basel in 1526, under the title 
De Civilitate Morwn puerilium. It had great vogue in the 
schools of the i6th century. In England it was translated 
before 1532, and many small manuals of behaviour were 
founded upon it^ We have evidence that between 1547 — 58 
no work of Erasmus was more in demand in the great book 
mart of Germany, Leipzig^. The manual is thoroughly simple 

■■ It should be noticed that the schools in England founded under the 
humanist impulse were, in contradistinction to the pre- Renaissance founda- 
tions, almost exclusively day schools. 

^ See Watson, Curriculum, pp. 8, 12. For the title of this and all other 
English versions of Erasmus' educational books see infra, p. 235. 

* "Kirchhoff, in his book Leipziger Sortiiuentshdndler im 16 Jahr- 
hundert, shows that in three years, 1547, 1551, 1558, not less than 654 

Moral Training 157 

in style ; it was expressly written for boys' use, probably it was 
often learnt by heart. It contains the following chapters : 
upon Physical Training and Personal Carriage; upon Dress; 
upon Behaviour in Church ; at Table ; in Company ; at Play ; 
in the Dormitory. The temper of the book is admirable ; it is 
never trivial, in spite of the intimate personal details into which 
the writer enters. Erasmus desires to set up a standard of 
manners to correspond to, and be the expression of, inward 
culture. He is fully aware of the advantage which Italy has, 
as against Germany, in this respect. But the moral ground- 
work is always in evidence : cleanliness, without and within, 
orderliness, truthfulness, frankness, self-respect, inbred courtesy 
to elders, to women and to companions, are the central points 
of the teaching which the book conveys. He ends by a 
monition to the young Prince Henry of Burgundy, to whom 
he addresses the treatise, a monition characteristic of the true 
humanist : " I would by way of epilogue add this piece of 
advice. Do not, in spite of what I have written, think un- 
worthily of a school-fellow who may haply fall short of your 
own standard of manners. For there are many who nobly 
compensate for such defects — due mostly to circumstance — 
by their excellence in more weighty virtues. Do not for a 
moment persuade yourself that a person cannot merit respect 
because he may lack something of the courtesies. A deficiency 
on this score you will wisely meet at most by friendly advice ; 
never by superior airs of reproof '." 

In connection Nvith school influences we may recall what 
Erasmus laid down upon the choice of Masters. The example 
and stimulus begun in the home must be further maintained 
in the school-room by the Tutor. One ground for the bitter 
criticism passed by Erasmus upon the average master was the 

copies (some with commentary) of the De Civilitate yfexe in stock in Leipzig. 
No other of Erasmus' books is to be found in such lists in equal number." 
Glockner, Erasmus, p. 28 n. 

^ De Civil. Mor. Pueril., Op. i. 1044 A- 

158 The Liberal Studies 

too common fact of his moral worthlessness. Ignorance, doubt- 
less, had much to do with the cruelty that so often marked his 
rule ; but there were moral offences to be complained of, such 
as drunkenness, neglect, and carelessness as to his whole 
function as a maker of character. 

We see, therefore, that Erasmus bases moral training upon 
personal religion, home example and intercourse', and school 
influence. It is characteristic of him that he has so little 
to say of the direct value of Church ceremonies, confession, 
the influence of the clergy, or of theological studies, in the 
building up of character. On the other hand, upon the basis 
of wholesome obedience thus established at home Erasmus 
builds up an edifice of moral education through literature, 
which it is important now to consider. It has been already 
shown that in the reading of the classical authors a prominent 
place will be given to setting forth the moral drift of the 
passage studied. Worthy example will be carefully drawn out, 
with parallel and illustration, and with application to modem 
instance. But if the passage in hand treat of evil motive or 
action the Master will so explain it, so emphasise the warning 
called for, that the class will be in no danger of carrying away 
a false standard of conduct. Erasmus is at pains to point out 
that one special reading of each lesson-portion should, if the 
passage lend itself thereto, be confined to the noting of, and 
comment upon, the moral teaching involved ^ How frequently 
does an author offer opportunity for such didactic review ! 
And how striking the effect of clear-cut pictures of virtue or 
vice drawn from the great authorities of the past ! Such 
"literary" exhortation is described by Erasmus as "exempla," 

' Op. iii. 1483 A. " Tenera aetas donii formatur ad omnem probitatem 
atque innocentiam." 

* Op. 1.4480: "releges igitur quarto, ac quae ad philosophiam, maxime 
vero ethicen, referri posse videantur circumspicies, si quod exemplum quod 
moribus accommodari possit. Quid autem est ex quo non vel exemplum 
Vivendi, vel imago quaedam, vel occasio, sumi queat? 

Moral Training 159 

i.e. concrete cases, although of rhetorical shape. The De 
Ratione Studii contains instances of this method, which is 
applicable also to composition in Latin and Greek. In one 
of the Colloquies (the Sober Feast) Erasmus handles the 
question of moral worth as descried in the writings of antiquity. 
He has no difficulty in showing that ancient literature can 
produce types of character " of the very pattern of Christian 
goodness." He compiled also a collection of ancient moral 
wisdom, the Apophthegmata (1531), whereby he "brings forward 
the great figures of the past to celebrate the eternal laws of 
right." Special classical authors are advised for their excellence 
as aids to moral training. Plutarch stands first ; indeed he 
ranks next to the Gospels ; as a moral stimulus to youth he 
will prove more attractive than any of the Christian Fathers'. 
Basil and Chrysostom learnt much from Plutarch. Then 
follow Cicero, Seneca, Terence, Demosthenes, Vergil and 
Tacitus. It is noticeable that Erasmus warns the Master 
against turning moral teaching into teaching alwut morals : 
discussions " de summo bono," or the sanctions of Ethics, 
are otiose. The Master is concerned to give the stimulus to 
action and to enforce it by precedents ; he will fail in this 
duty if he allows the youthful mind to wander off to mere 

This literary treatment of morality, so objective and didactic, 
lends itself easily to depreciatory criticism, which, however, 
fails of effectiveness when we remember that Erasmus intends 
it as illustration, for intelligent youth, of precepts imbibed in 
the home. Further, it will be reinforced, as the threshold of 
manhood is reached, by a more intimate intercourse with elders. 
The young man entering upon direct preparation for profes- 
sional life must be allowed free choice of career; a wholly 
modern concept, in which, however, Erasmus sees the crown 
of all right education. The development of individuality must 

^ Op. V. 856. Cp. Benoist, Quid de pueris, p. 131. 

i6o The End of Education 

be watched from the very first years of life. Erasmus con- 
stantly warns parents against forcing all children through the 
same course ^ and when bent is fully in evidence in later 
boyhood, they and the Master must recognise it as decisive. 
Such freedom of personality is fully consistent with a uniform 
sense of public duty, which should mark every cultivated 
intelligence. The narrowing influence of a certain type of 
literary education, in the direction, he means, of disqualifying 
the studious for active interests in life, he much deprecates*. 
For " action " is the end of education, with Erasmus not less 
than with the great Italian Masters of the Quattrocento. The 
life of scholarship is only one small part of the career open to 
highly educated youth. To be a citizen of the world, marked 
by a due consciousness of obligation to the community in 
which we are placed, is the highest aim. Thomas More, Colet, 
and Paumgarten are instances. Erasmus is reminded in his 
allusions to the Paumgarten family of the value of Travel in 
education : " adolescentia prima statim ab aedibus paternis 
ablegatur in Italiam aut in Galliam, quo simul et Unguis et 
moribus alienis assuescant, nihil enim fere morosius iis qui in 
patria consenuerunt ; oderunt exteros, ac damnant quicquid a 
vernaculis ritibus diversum est^" In this way the consciousness 
of an " international solidarity of learning " was strengthened. 
Finally, the higher end of humanism was attained when the 
sense of duty to self, to the community, and to God, was 
realised as the triple aspect of one and the same ideal. 

^ Op. V. 722 D; i. 502. Infra, p. 196. * Op. iii. 1482F. 

3 Ibid. 1485 A. 



The works of Erasmus here presented include the two 
treatises which best express the ordered views of their author 
upon Education. These, with a portion of one of the Collo- 
quies, are given in EngHsh. A short chapter from the De 
Conscribendis Epistolis is printed in the original Latin with 
English headings. 

The tract De Ratione Studii has not, I believe, appeared 
before in an English version. The De Pueris was translated 
by 'Rychard Sherry, Londoner,' head-master of Magdalen 
College School, and published in or about 1550 by John Day, 
under the title ' A declamacion That chyldren even strayt fro' 
their infancie should be well and gently broughte up in learnynge. 
Written fyrst in Latin by the most excellent and famous 
Clearke, Erasmus of Roterodame.' This was issued in one 
volume, of which it forms the second part, with a Treatise of 
Schemes and Tropes {i.e. figures of Rhetoric). The volume is 
exceedingly rare. The Colloquies were translated by N. Bailey 
in 1725. Any compressions noticeable in the versions as 
printed below are only by way of restraint of Erasmian 
redundancy of illustration. 

In addition to these four works the student of the subject 
will perhaps find the following next in order of interest : 
Christiani Matrimonii Institution Op. v. 708 B — 724. De 
Civilitate Morum Puerilium, i, 1033 — 1044. De Rerum 
Copia, i. 75 — no. 

W. II 


STRUCTION, 151 1. 

§ I. Thought and Expression form the Two-fold 
Material of Instruction. 521 a — b. 

All knowledge falls into one of two divisions : the knowledge 
of " truths " and the knowledge of " words " : and if the former 
is first in importance the latter is acquired first in order of 
time. They are not to be corrtmended who, in their anxiety to 
increase their store of truths, neglect the necessary art of ex- 
pressing them. For ideas are only intelligible to us by means 
of the words which describe them ; wherefore defective know- 
ledge of language reacts upon our apprehension of the truths 
expressed. We often find that no one is so apt to lose himself 
in verbal arguments as the man who boasts that facts, not 
words, are the only things that interest him. This goes to 
prove that true education includes what is best in both kinds 
of knowledge, taught, I must add, under the best guidance. 
For, remembering how difficult it is to eradicate early im- 
pressions, we should aim from the first at learning what need 
never be unlearnt, and that only. 

De Ratione Studii, 521 a — 52 2 a 163 

§ 2. Expression claims the first place in point of time. 
Both the Greek and Latin languages needful to 
the Educated Man, 521 b — c. 

Language thus claims the first place in the order of studies 
and from the outset should include both Greek and Latin. 
The argument for this is two-fold. First, that withm these two 
literatures are contained all the knowledge which we recognise 
as of vital importance to mankind. Secondly, that the natural 
affinity of the two tongues renders it more profitable to study 
them side by side than apart. Latin particularly gains by this 
method. Quintilian advised that a beginning should be made 
with Greek before systematic work in Latin is taken in hand. 
Of course he regarded proficiency in both as essential. The 
elements, therefore, of Greek and Latin should be acquired 
early, and should a thoroughly skilled master not be available, 
then — but only then — let the learner fall back upon self-teaching 
by means of the study of classical masterpieces. 

§ 3. The Right Method of acquiring Grammar rests 
upon Reading and not upon Definitions and Rules. 
521 c — 522 A. 

Amongst Greek Grammars that of Theodore Gaza stands 
admittedly first, next to it I rank that of Constantine Lascaris. 
Of the old Latin Grammarians Diomedes is the soundest ; 
whilst the Rudimenta of Nicholas Perotti strikes me as the 
most thorough and most comprehensive of modern works. 
But I must make my conviction clear that, whilst a knowledge 
of the rules of accidence and syntax is most necessary to every 
student, still they should be as few, as simple, and as carefully 
framed as possible. I have no patience with the stupidity of 
the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in 

164 De Ratione Studii, 522 a — e 

hammering rules into children's heads. For it is not by learning 
rules that we acquire the power of speaking a language, but by 
daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves 
with exactness and refinement, and by the copious reading of 
the best authors. 

Upon this latter point we do well to choose such works as 
are not only sound models of style but are instructive by reason 
of their subject-matter. The Greek prose-writers whom I 
advise are, in order, Lucian, Demosthenes, Herodotus : the 
poets, Aristophanes, Homer, Euripides ; Menander, if we 
possessed his works, would take precedence of all three. 
Amongst Roman writers, in prose and verse, Terence, for 
pure, terse Latinity has no rival, and his plays are never dull. 
I see no objection to adding carefully chosen comedies of 
Plautus. Next, I place Vergil, then Horace ; Cicero and 
Caesar follow closely ; and Sallust after these. These authors 
provide, in my judgment, sufficient reading to enable the young 
student to acquire a working knowledge of the two great 
classical tongues. It is not necessary for this purpose to cover 
the whole range of ancient literature ; we are not to be 
dubbed " beginners " because we have not yet mastered the 
whole of the Fragmenta. 

Some proficiency in expression being thus attained the 
student devotes his attention to the content of the ancient 
literatures. It is true, of course, that in reading an author 
for purposes of vocabulary and style the student cannot fail to 
gather something besides. But I have in my mind much more 
than this when I speak of studying "contents." For I affirm 
that with slight qualification the whole of attainable knowledge 
lies enclosed within the literary monuments of ancient Greece. 
This great inheritance I will compare to a limpid spring of 
whose undefiled waters it behoves all who truly thirst to drink 
and be restored. 

De Ratione Studii, 522 a — e 165 

§ 4. The Subject-matter and the Methods which 
are most suitable to beginners. 522 a — e. 

Before touching upon the order in which the various 
disciplines should be acquired, and the choice of Masters, 
I will say something on the instruction of beginners. In 
reading the authors above mentioned for the purposes of 
vocabulary, ornament and style, you can have no better guide 
than Lorenzo Valla. His Elegantiae will shew you what to 
look for and note down in your Latin reading. But do not 
merely echo his rules ; make headings for yourself as well. 
Refer also to Donatus and Diomedes for syntax. Rules of 
prosody, and the rudiments of rhetoric, such as the method of 
direct statement, of proof, of ornament, of expansion, of tran- 
sition, are important both for the intelligent study of authors 
and for composition. Such grounding in grammar and in style 
will enable you to note with precision such matters as these : 
an unusual word, archaisms, and innovations, ingenuity in 
handling material, distinction of style, historical or moral 
instances, proverbial expressions : the note-book being ready 
to hand to record them. Notes of this kind should not be 
jotted down at hap-hazard, but carefully devised so as to recall 
to the mind the pith of what is read. 

If it is claimed that Logic should find a place in the course 
proposed I do not seriously demur ; but I refuse to go beyond 
Aristotle and I prohibit the verbiage of the schools. Do not 
let us forget that Dialectic is an elusive maiden, a Siren, indeed, 
in quest of whom a man may easily suffer intellectual ship- 
wreck. Not here is the secret of style to be discovered. That 
lies in the use of the pen ; whatever the form, whether prose 
or verse, or whatever the theme, write, write, and again write. 
Supplement writing by learning by heart Upon this latter 
question, memory depends at bottom upon three conditions : 
thorough understanding of the subject, logical ordering of the 

1 66 De Ratione Studii, 522 e — 523 f 

contents, repetition to ourselves. Without these we can neither 
retain securely nor reproduce promptly. Read, then, atten- 
tively, read over and over again, test your memory vigorously 
and minutely. Verbal memory may with advantage be aided 
by ocular impressions ; thus, for instance, we can have charts 
of geographical facts, genealogical trees, large-typed tables of 
rules of syntax and prosody, which we can hang on the walls. 
Or again, the scholar may make a practice of copying striking 
quotations at the top of his exercise books. I have known 
a proverb inscribed upon a ring, or a cup, sentences worth 
remembering painted on a door or a window. These are 
all devices for adding to our intellectual stores, which, trivial 
as they may seem individually, have a distinct cumulative 

Lastly, I urge, as undeniably the surest method of acquisi- 
tion, the practice of teaching what we know : in no other way 
can we so certainly learn the difference between what we kno7ii, 
and what we think we know, whilst that which we actually 
know we come to know better. 

§5. Instruction Generally: Choice of Subjects of 
Instruction. The Range of Study Necessary to 
A Well-read Master. 522 e— 523 f. 

This brings me to treat of the art of instruction generally, 
though it seems a mere impertinence in me to handle afresh a 
subject which has been made so conspicuously his own by the 
great Quintilian. 

As regards the choice of material, it is essential that from 
the outset the child be made acquainted only with the best 
that is available. This implies that the Master is competent 
to recognise the best in the mass of erudition open to him, 
which in turn signifies that he has read far more widely than 
the range of authors to be taught by him. This applies even 
to the tutor of beginners. The Master should, therefore, 

De Ratione Studii, 522 e — 523 f 167 

acquaint himself with authors of every type, with a view to 
contents rather than to style ; and the better to classify what 
he reads he must adopt the system of classifying his matter by 
means of note-books, upon the plan suggested by me in De 
Copia. As examples of the authors I refer to I put Pliny first, 
then Macrobius, Aulus Gellius, and, in Greek, Athenaeus. 
Indeed to lay in a store of ancient wisdom the studious master 
must go straight to the Greeks : to Plato, Aristotle, Theo- 
phrastus and Plotinus ; to Origen, Chrysostom, Basil. Of the 
Latin Fathers, Ambrosius will be found most fertile in classical 
allusions. Jerome has the greatest command of Holy Scripture. 
I cannot, however, enumerate the entire extent of reading which 
a competent knowledge of antiquity demands. I can only 
indicate a few directions which study ought to take. 

For the right understanding of the poets, the Legends of 
Gods and Heroes must be mastered : Homer, Hesiod, Ovid, 
and the Italian Boccaccio should be read for this. A know- 
ledge of Geography is of prime importance, for the study both 
of ancient poets and of historians. Pomponius Mela makes 
a useful compendium ; Pliny and Ptolemy are learned and 
elaborate writers ; Strabo is something more than a geogra- 
pher. This subject includes two parts, a knowledge, first, 
of the names, ancient and modern, of mountains, rivers, 
cities ; secondly, of names of trees, plants, animals, of dress, 
appliances, precious stones, in which the average writer of 
to-day shews a strange ignorance. Here we gain help from 
the works which have come down to us upon agriculture, archi- 
tecture, the art of war, cookery, precious stones, and natural 
history. We can make good use, in the same subject, of 
etymology (the name " unicorn " is an example). Or again we 
can trace word-change in names through modern Greek, or 
Italian and Spanish (Tiber, now "Tevere," is an example). 
I may say that modern French has wandered too far from its 
classical mother-speech to be of much help to us in recognising 
and identifying ancient names. 

1 68 De Ratione Studii, 523 f — 524 c 

Material for the study of Archaeology is to be found not 
only in literary sources, but in ancient coins, inscriptions, and 
monuments. Astrology — futile as it is in itself— must be un- 
derstood for the sake of many poetical allusions. Of special 
importance is the study of History, for its own sake as well as 
for the reason that it is the key to many references in other 
writings. Finally, to understand such a poet as Prudentius, the 
one Christian poet of real literary taste, a knowledge of Sacred 
History is indispensable. 

And indeed we may say that a genuine student ought to 
grasp the meaning and force of every fact or idea that he meets 
with in his reading, otherwise their literary treatment through 
epithet, metaphor, or simile will be to him obscure and con- 
fused. There is thus no discipline, no field of study, — whether 
music, architecture, agriculture or war — which may not prove 
of use to the teacher in expounding the Poets and Orators of 
antiquity. " But," you rejoin, " you expect all this of your 
scholar?" Yes, if he propose to become a teacher; for he 
thus secures that his own erudition will lighten the toil of 
acquisition for those under his charge. 

§ 6. The Art of teaching the Rudiments of Language 
UP TO the stage when Composition is begun. 
523 F— 524 c. 

As regards the methods of the rudiments — that is, of 
learning to talk and knowing the alphabet — I can add nothing 
to what Quintilian has laid down. For my own part I advise 
that when this stage is reached the child begin to hear and 
imitate the sounds of Latin speech. Why should it be more 
difficult to acquire Roman words or even Greek, rather than the 
vernacular ? No doubt my prescription demands the environ- 
ment of a cultivated home-circle. But the master may secure 
even under the conditions of school-life that boys be brought 

De Ratione Studii, 523 f — 524 c 169 

to speak Latin with precision, if patience be shown in encourag- 
ing and correcting uncertain efforts, and in insisting upon 
careful observation of the Teacher's own usage. By degrees 
devices for increasing fluency may be introduced ; as, for 
instance, a game of forfeits and prizes for faults and corrections, 
the Master choosing the judges from amongst the top boys. 
The more common phrases suitable for play, for social life, 
for meal-times, must be early learned and be apt, and ready 
to hand. 

The time will now have come when the able teacher must 
select certain of the more necessary rules of accidence and 
syntax, and state them simply, arrange them in proper order 
and dictate them for entry in note-books. An author may 
now be attempted, but of the easiest sort ; choose one likely 
to be helpful in composition and conversation. Through this 
text the rules just referred to will be driven home, and the 
examples of syntactical usages therein contained carefully 
worked out ; all this of course with an eye to the later stages 
when regular exercises in prose and verse are required. 

§ 7. The importance of the Art of Composition; its 
method set out. 524 c — 525 c. 

When this time has arrived care must be taken to propound 
themes not only worthy in subject but suitable, as being within 
the range of the boy's interests. For in this way he may 
acquire not only training in style, but also a certain store of 
facts and ideas for future use. For example, such a subject as 
the following would prove attractive: "The rash self-confidence 
of Marcellus imperilled the fortunes of Rome ; they were 
retrieved by the caution of Fabius." Here we see the under- 
lying sentiment, that reckless counsels hasten towards disaster. 
Here is another : " Which of the two shewed less wisdom, 
Crates who cast his gold into the sea, or Midas who cherished 

lyo De Ratione Studii, 524 d — 525 f 

it as his supreme good ? " Or, " Eloquence too little restrained 
brought Demosthenes and Cicero to their ruin." One more : 
" No encomium can exceed the deserts of Codrus, who held 
that the safety of his subjects claimed even the life of the King 
himself" But Valerius Maximus will provide you with ample 
choice of such themes. At first these may be set in the 

Mythology and fable will also serve your purpose. " Her- 
cules gained immortal fame as the destroyer of monsters." 
"The Muses delight in the fountain and the grove; they shrink 
from the crowded haunts of men." "One should not burden a 
friend with a difficulty which it is a duty to solve ourselves." 
" All men are conscious of the wallet which hangs in front, but 
ignore that which they carry behind them." Proverb and 
moral will suggest such themes as these : " It is not every 
one's good fortune to visit Corinth." "How far above the type 
of to-day was he who counted a man worthy not for his wealth 
but for his manhood ! " " Socrates despises those who live in 
order to eat ; he applauds those who eat in order to live." 
My book Adagia will supply you with instances enough. 
Other themes may be suggested from the properties of natural 
objects, such as the attraction of the magnet or the mimicry of 
the polypus. Similes, also, allegories, sententious sayings, 
smart turns of expression, will lend themselves to exercises in 
composition. The Master in the course of his reading will be 
careful to note instances which present themselves as models 
suitable for imitation. 

The pupil will now have attained a certain facility in 
speaking and in writing Latin. He will be ready, therefore, to 
proceed to a more advanced stage in Grammar, which must be 
learnt by means of rules aptly illustrated by quotations : the 
rules being expressed as tersely as may be consistent with 
clearness. I would add that in all that concerns Greek con- 
structions we should do well to follow the guidance of Gaza's 

De Ratione Studii, 524 d — 525 f 171 

§ 8. The Methods to be pursued in writing Advanced 
ExKRCisEs IN Composition. 525 c — f. 

But I must repeat that when once the simpler rules of 
composition, in prose and verse, and the commoner figures of 
speech have been mastered, the whole stress of teaching must 
be laid upon a close yet wide study of the greater writers. 
Fortified with this the student can produce original work in 
prose, under the criticism (this is most important) of a thoroughly 
skilled instructor. 

Practice in the epistolary style, both in Greek and Latin, 
may be gained by writing to an argument propounded in the 
vernacular. This will come first. Then the whole range of 
rhetorical prose is open to the student who must gain acquaint- 
ance with the different varieties of style ; for instance, that 
demanded in the production of the Fable, or the moral 
Commonplace, or the short Story, or the Dilemma ; the art 
of expressing an Encomium, or a Denunciation ; a Parallel, 
a Simile, a Description. Another exercise will take the form 
of paraphrasing poetry into prose and the reverse process. 
There is also much advantage in attempting the same subject, 
say an epistle, in two diverse styles. Or one motive may be 
expressed in four or five different metres. Further, an identical 
topic may be propounded both for verse and for prose, alike in 
Latin and in Greek. An affirmation may be set to be proved 
by three or four differing lines of argument. Perhaps the most 
useful exercise of all consists in construing from Greek into 
Latin, practice in which demands diligent attention. For in 
this exercise we are committed to three distinct operations : 
first, we have to analyse the construction of the passage in the 
older tongue : next, we are forced to appreciate carefully the 
peculiar genius of each language and to note the principles 
which are common to both : thirdly, in producing an accurate 
rendering from the Greek we are exercised in moving freely 

172 De Ratione Stiidii, 525 f — 526F 

amidst the resources of Roman vocabulary and sentence-struc- 
ture. So exacting a task claims whatever stimulus, encourage- 
ment and skilled aid the master has to offer to the pupil; 
who will further find inspiration in the reading of model 
passages of a similar theme to that which he has in hand. 

§ 9. Original Composition ; its Variety ; the Method 
OF Aiding the Student; Correction of Exercises. 
525 F— 526 F. 

It is now time to call for original composition : in which we 
leave the task of developing a stated theme to the taste and 
industry of the pupil himself. The right choice of subjects for 
such exercises is a test of the Master's talent. Suppose an 
Epistle to be required, say of congratulation, or of condolence, 
or expostulation, or of some other recognised type, the Master 
should limit himself to indicating certain characteristics of 
structure or phrasing, common to each variety, and then those 
which may be specially appropriate to the kind of letter actu- 
ally proposed. The same method will apply to exercises in 
formal Oratory, — a declamation in praise of Socrates, or in 
denunciation of Caesar ; against reliance on riches, or in favour 
of Greek Letters ; for the married life or against it ; against 
pilgrimages, or in praise of them. 

This will lead to the study of the art of Oratory as laid 
down by Cicero and Quintilian. For the subjects proposed as 
above must be treated in accordance with accepted methods. 
The master should suggest the number of propositions to be 
set out on a given theme, of the arguments to be employed, 
and of the proofs to be adduced in support of each ; and the 
sources from which these may be drawn. This constitutes a 
kind of skeleton-form of the oration, to be filled in to suit the 
actual subject selected. Further, the pupil should be led to 
consider the various methods by which he may adorn his 
treatment of the argument, such as simile and contrast, 

De Ratione Studii, 525 f — 526 f 173 

parallel cases, moral reflection, adages, anecdotes, parables, 
and so on ; and he should have some guidance in choice of 
figure and metaphor as aids to ornament in style. In 
regard to the logical ordering of argument as a whole, the 
student should be taught to attend to the niceties of ex- 
position,— the exordium, the transition, the peroration; for each 
of these has its own peculiar excellence, and each, moreover, 
admits of the merit not only of precision but also of elegance. 
Seven or eight exercises of this kind done under careful 
supervision should be sufficient to enable the pupil to lay out 
matter for original prose composition without help. Amongst 
suitable subjects for the purpose are those drawn from legend 
and ancient history, such as these : " Menelaus before a 
Trojan assembly claims the restoration of Helen " ; " Phalaris 
presses the priests of Delphi to accept his Brazen Bull as an 
offering to the god"; " Cicero is warned to reject the offers of 
Mark Antony." As regards the correction of compositions, the 
Master will note his approval of passages which shew ingenuity 
in selection of material, and in its treatment, and in imitation. 
He will censure omission or bad arrangement of matter, ex- 
aggerations, carelessness, awkwardness of expression. He will 
at the same time point out how corrections may be suitably 
made, and ask for a re-writing of the exercise. Yet, after all, his 
chief aim will be to stimulate his pupils by calling attention to 
the progress made by this one or by the other, thus arousing the 
spirit of emulation in the class. 

§ 10. The Best Methods of Procedure in Reading an 
Author in Class: 526 f — 528 c. 

In reading a classic let the Master avoid the practice, 
common to inferior teachers, of taking it as the text for 
universal and irrelevant commentary. Respect the writer, and 
let it be your rule to rest content with explaining and illus- 
trating his meaning. This would be the method I advise, say, 

174 -^^ Ratione Studii, 526 f — 528 b 

in taking a class through a play of Terence. You begin by 
offering an appreciation of the author, and state what is 
necessary concerning his life and surroundings, his talent, and 
the characteristics of his style. You next consider comedy as 
an example of a particular form of literature, and its interest 
for the student : the origin and meaning of the term itself, the 
varieties of Comedy, and the Terentian prosody. Now you 
proceed to treat briefly and clearly the argument of the play, 
taking each situation in due course. Side by side with this 
you will handle the diction of the writer ; noting any con- 
spicuous elegance, or such peculiarities as archaism, novel 
usage, Graecisms ; bringing out anything that is involved or 
obscure in phrases or sentence-forms ; marking, where neces- 
sary, derivations and orthography, metaphors and other 
rhetorical artifices. Parallel passages should next be brought 
under notice, similarities and contrasts in treatment observed, 
and direct borrowings traced — no difficult task when we are 
comparing a Latin poet with his Greek predecessors. The 
last factor in the lesson consists in the moral applications 
which it suggests; the story of Orestes and Pylades, or of 
Tantalus, are obvious examples. 

It may be wise in some cases to open the reading of a 
fresh book by arousing interest in its broader significance. 
For instance, the Second Eclogue of Vergil must be treated as 
something more than a purely grammatical or literary exercise. 
" The essence of friendship," the Master would begin, " lies in 
similarity. Violently contradictory natures are incapable of 
mutual affection. The stronger and the more numerous the 
ties of taste and interest the more durable is the bond." This, 
amplified by apt adages and wise reflections, of which litera- 
ture is full, will serve to draw the pupil's tholight to the more 
general aspects of his reading. But it is only a Master of 
ability, insight and wide culture, to whom such a method is 
possible. A store of pertinent quotations is the product of 
careful reading. For instance, in illustration of this particular 

De Ratione Studii, 526 f — 528B 175 

theme, he will adduce such quotations as this : " cascus 
cascam ducit : balbus balbum rectius intelligit : semper 
graculus arridet graculo," and others of the same import. 
Again, the master will have learnt from his knowledge of 
men that extreme differences of fortunes or of intellectual 
tastes do not consist with abiding friendship, that a fool laughs 
at a man of education, a boor has nothing in common with a 
courtier. He knows that there is a complete lack of sympathy 
between the Stoic and the Epicurean, the philosopher and the 
attorney, the poet and the divine, the orator and the recluse. 
See, too, what advantage learning gives to the master in 
enforcing the same theme from tradition and from history. 
He can refer to Castor and Pollux, to Romulus and Remus, to 
Cain and Abel. The beautiful myth of Narcissus will, in able 
hands, prove a parable of striking force. What has more like- 
ness to ourselves than our own reflection ? Thus, when one 
man of learning feels drawn to another, is he not in truth 
attracted by the reflection of himself? And so of a man of 
wise temperance, or a man of integrity, conscious of similar 
excellence in another. Upon such recognition of identical 
qualities is friendship based, — I mean the frank, open and 
abiding friendship which alone deserves the name. The 
Platonic myth of the two types of Aphrodite, the celestial 
and the profane, may be adduced to prove that true affection 
can subsist between the good alone. For where excellence is 
only upon one side, friendship is but a fleeting and insecure 
thing. Now it is as a parable of unstable friendship that the 
Master should treat this Eclogue. Alexis is of the town, 
Corydon a countryman ; Corydon a shepherd, Alexis a man of 
society. Alexis cultivated, young, graceful ; Corydon rude, 
crippled, his youth far behind him. Hence the impossibility 
of a true friendship. The lesson finally left on the mind of 
the pupil is that it is the prudent part to choose friends among 
those whose tastes and characters agree with our own. Such 
methods of treating a classical story, by forcing attention to 

176 De Ratione Studii, 528 b — 5 30 a 

the moral to be deduced from it, will serve to counteract 
any harm which a more literal interpretation might possibly 
convey. After all, it is what a reader brings to a passage 
rather than what he finds there which is the real source of 

§ II. An Introduction to Literary Criticism is 

TION. 528 C — 529 B. 

Speaking generally, it is advisable to introduce every new 
book read by indicating its chief characteristics, and then 
setting out its argument. The characteristics of Epigram are 
aptness and point ; of Tragedy emotion, the various types of 
which and their exciting causes must be distinguished. In a 
great play the argument of each speech, the logical fence of 
the dialogue, the scene where the action is laid, the period, 
and the surroundings, call for attention in due order. Comedy 
suggests a different method of introductory treatment : a 
more familiar setting, lighter, less strenuous emotions, are 
common to every comedy, though each play will require its 
own prefatory discussion. In beginning the " Andria," the 
master will note the contrast of Chremes and Simo, as types 
of old age, of Pamphilus and Charinus as examples of young 
men. And so through other plays. The Eclogues of Vergil 
will be shewn to have their setting in a Golden Age ; their 
ideas, similes, comparisons, are drawn from pastoral life ; the 
emotions depicted are far from complex ; the shepherd's 
delight is in simple melody and the wisdom of maxim and 
proverb, his reverence is for traditional lore and augury. A 
historical book, epic or satire, dialogue or fable, will be intro- 
duced each in its appropriate way, before the text is touched 
upon, and the excellence or the defect of the piece em- 

Most important is it that the student be brought to learn 

De Ratione Studii, 528 b — 5 30 a 177 

for himself the true method of such criticism, that he may dis- 
tinguish good literature from mediocrity. Hence the value of 
acquaintance with the judgments to be found in the oratorical 
writings of Cicero and Quintilian ; in Seneca and in the old 
grammarians such as Donatus. Once acquired, this power of 
insight into the mind of the great writers will lead to a habit 
of general criticism of character and situation. The student 
will put such questions to himself as these : Why did Cicero 
feign to be afraid in his defence of Milo? Why did Vergil 
depict Turnus as a second hero ? But enough to indicate what 
I mean by literary criticism. 

§ 12. Progress in Classical Knowledge depends upon 
THE Learning and the Skill of the Master. 
529 B— 530 a. 

What has been laid down above as the function of the 
schoolmaster implies, I allow, that he be a person of no slight 
learning and experience. But, given these qualities, I have no 
doubt that the class will speedily absorb the kind of knowledge 
which I have indicated. The first steps may be slow and 
laborious, but exercise and right instruction make progress 
certain. I only stipulate that the material selected be of 
sound classical excellence (nothing mediaeval), and the method 
skilfully adapted to the growing comprehension ; the teacher 
forcing nothing, but working forward gradually from the 
broader aspects of his subject to the more minute. Success 
then is assured. One further counsel, however. The master 
must not omit to set as an exercise the reproduction of what 
he has given to the class. It involves time and trouble to the 
teacher, I know well, but it is essential. A literal reproduction 
of the matter taught is, of course, not required, but the 
substance of it presented in the pupil's own way. Personally 
I disapprove of the practice of taking down a lecture just as it 

w, 12 

lyS De Ratione Studii, 530 a — b 

is delivered. For this prevents reliance upon memory which 
should, as time goes on, need less and less of that external aid 
which note-taking supplies. 

§ 13. Conclusion. 530 a — b. 

Such weight do I ascribe to right method in instruction — 
and I include herein choice of material as well as of modes of 
imparting it — that I undertake by its means to carry forward 
youths of merely average intelligence to a creditable standard 
of scholarship, and of conversation also, in Latin and Greek, 
at an age when, under the common schoolmaster of to-day, the 
same youths would be just stammering through their Primer. 
With the foundations thus rightly laid a boy may confidently 
look forward to success in the higher range of learning. He 
will, when he looks back, admit that the essential condition of 
his attainment was the care which was devoted to the be- 
ginnings of his education. 


De Pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis, 



ERAS. Op. i. 489. 


ING. 1529. Addressed to William, Duke of Ci-eves. 

§ I. The Argument at Large : i. 489 a — d. 

I desire to urge upon you, Illustrious Duke, to take into 
your early and serious consideration the future nurture and 
training of the son lately born to you. For, with Chrysippus, 
I contend that the young child must be led to sound learning 
whilst his wit is yet unwarped, his age tender, his mind flexible 
and tenacious. In manhood we remember nothing so well as 
the truths which we imbibed in our youth. Wherefore I beg 
you to put aside all idle chatter which would persuade you that 
this early childhood is unmeet for the discipline and the effort 
of studies. 

The arguments which I shall enlarge upon are the following. 
First, the beginnings of learning are the work of memory, which 
in young children is most tenacious. Next, as nature has 
implanted in us the instinct to seek for knowledge, can we be 
too early in obeying her behest ? Thirdly, there are not a few 
things which it imports greatly that we should know well, and 
which we can learn far more readily in our tender years. 
I speak of the elements of Letters, Grammar, and the fables 

De Pueris Instituendis, 489 a — d 181 

and stories found in the ancient Poets. Fourthly, since 
children, as all agree, are fit to acquire manners, why may 
they not acquire the rudiments of learning ? And seeing that 
they must needs be busy about something, what else can be 
better approved ? For how much wiser to amuse their hours 
with Letters, than to see them frittered away in aimless 
trifling ! 

It is, however, objected, first, that such knowledge as can 
be thus early got is of slight value. But even so, why despise 
it, if so be it serve as the foundation for much greater things ? 
For if in early childhood a boy acquire such useful elements 
he will be free to apply his youth to higher knowledge, to the 
saving of his time. Moreover, whilst he is thus occupied in sound 
learning he will perforce be kept from some of the temptations 
which befall youth, seeing that nothing engages the whole 
mind more than studies. And this I count a high gain in such 
times as ours. 

Next, it is urged that by such application health may be 
somewhat endangered. Supposing this to be true, still the 
compensation is great, for by discipline the mind gains far 
more in alertness and in vigour than the body is ever likely to 
lose. Watchfulness, however, will prevent any such risk as is 
imagined. Also, for this tender age you will employ a teacher 
who will win and not drive, just as you will choose such 
subjects as are pleasant and attractive, in which the young 
mind will find recreation rather than toil. 

Furthermore, I bid you remember that a man ignorant of 
Letters is no man at all, that human life is a fleeting thing, that 
youth is easily enticed into sin, that early manhood is absorbed 
by clashing interests, that old age is unproductive, and that few 
reach it. How then can you allow your child, in whom you 
yourself live again, to lose even one of those precious years in 
which he may begin to acquire those means whereby he may 
elevate his whole life and keep at arm's length temptation and 

1 82 De Pueris Instituendis, 486 d — 491 d 

§ 2. The First Law : Education must begin from the 
very earliest years. 486 d — 49o a. 

I rejoice at your determination that your son shall be early 
initiated into the arts of true learning and the wisdom of sound 
philosophy. Herein consists the full duty of fatherhood, the 
care and guidance of the spirit of him for whose creation you 
are responsible. And now for my first precept. Do not 
follow the fashion, which is too common amongst us, of allowing 
the early years of childhood to pass without fruit of instruction, 
and of deferring its first steps until the allurements of in- 
dulgence have made application more difficult. 

§ 3. The Importance of skilled Control from the 
outset. 490 a — 491 d. 

I urge you, therefore, to look even now for a scholar of 
high character and attainment to whom you may commit the 
charge of your boy's mind and disposition, leaving to wisely 
chosen nurses the care of his bodily welfare. By thus dividing 
control the child will be saved from the mischievous kindnesses 
and indulgence of foolish serving-women, and of weak relatives, 
who decry learning as so much poison, and babble about the 
unfitness of the growing boy for Letters. To such chatter you 
will turn a deaf ear. For, remembering that the welfare of 
your son demands not less circumspection from you than a 
man will gladly bestow upon his horse, his castle, his estate, 
you will take heed only to the wisest counsel which you can 
secure, and ponder that with yourself. Consider, in this regard, 
the care which a boy's mother will lavish upon his bodily 
frame, how she will take thought should she but faintly suspect 
in him a tendency to become wry-necked, cross-eyed, crook- 
backed or splay-footed, or by any mischance prove ill-formed 
in proportions of his figure. Think, too, how she is apt to 

De Pueris InstitMendis, 486 d — 491 d 183 

busy herself about his milk, his meat, his bath, his exercise, 
following herein the wise foresight of Galen; will she defer 
this carefulness until the seventh year ? No, from the very day 
of his birth charge is taken lest mischief hap, and wisely, 
knowing that a weakly manhood may be thus avoided. Nay, 
even before the child be bom, how diligent is the wise 
mother to see that no harm come to herself for her child's 

No one blames this as undue or untimely care for the 
young life. Why then do men neglect that part of our nature, 
the nobler part, whereby we are rightly called men ; we bestow, 
justly, our effort upon the mortal body ; yet have we but slight 
regard for the immortal spirit. 

Are other instances needed ? Then think of the training of 
a colt, how early it is begun ; or of the work of the husbandman 
who fashions and trains the sapling to suit his taste or to 
further the fruitfulness of the tree. This is a task of human 
skill and purpose ; and the sooner these are applied the more 
sure the result. 

§ 4. The Supreme Importance of Education to human 
Well-being, 491 d — 492 a. 

To dumb creatures Mother Nature has given an innate 
power or instinct, whereby they may in great part attain to 
their right capacities. But Providence in granting to man 
alone the privilege of reason has thrown the burden of deve- 
lopment of the human being upon training. Well, therefore, 
has it been said that the first means, the second, and the third 
means to happiness is right training or education. Sound 
education is the condition of real wisdom. And if an education 
which is soundly planned and carefully carried out is the very 
fount of all human excellence, so, on the other hand, careless 
and unworthy training is the true source of folly and vice. 
This capacity for training is, indeed, the chief aptitude which 

184 De Pueris Instituendis, 491 d — 492 d 

has been bestowed upon humanity. Unto the animals nature 
has given swiftness of foot or of wing, keenness of sight, 
strength or size of frame, and various weapons of defence. To 
Man, instead of physical powers, is given a mind apt for 
training ; in this single gift all others are comprised, for him, 
at least, who turns it to due profit. We see that where native 
instinct is strong — as in squirrels or bees — capacity for being 
taught is wanting. Man, lacking instinct, can do little or 
nothing of innate power ; scarce can he eat, or walk, or speak, 
unless he be guided thereto. How then can we expect that he 
should become competent to the duties of life unless straight- 
way and with much diligence he be brought under the discipline 
of a worthy education ? Let me enforce this by the well-known 
story of Lycurgus, who, to convince the Spartans, brought out 
two hounds, one of good mettle, but untrained and therefore 
useless in the field, and the other poorly bred and well-drilled 
at his work; "Nature," he said, "maybe strong, yet Education 
is more powerful still." 

§ 5. Parents will not see that in their children's 
interests education matters most. 492 a — c. 

Yet we see a father, who bestows no little heed to ensure 
that his horses and dogs are of the right breed, careless whether 
his son be properly trained that he may prove an honour to his 
parents, and helpful to them in their later years, a worthy 
husband, a brave and useful citizen. Yet for whom does such 
a father plant and build? for whose behoof does he contrive 
wealth by land and by sea ? For his children, forsooth. But 
what profit or honour lies in inheriting such things if their 
possessor has no skill to use them aright ? Who will fashion 
ingeniously a harp for one who has not learnt to play upon it ? 
Or furnish a library for one who knows or cares nothing for 
books? Why, therefore, heap up riches for one who knows 
not how to employ them ? For note this well : that he who 

De Pueris Instituendis, 491 i) — 492 D 185 

provides for a son who is worthily educated, provides means to 
virtue : but whoso saves for a child endowed with rude 
temper and uncultivated wit is but ministering to oppor- 
tunities of indulgence and mischief It is the height of folly 
that one should train the body to be comely, and wholly 
neglect that excellence of mind which alone can guide it 
aright. For I hesitate not to affirm that those things which 
men covet for their sons — health, riches, and repute — are more 
surely secured by virtue and learning — the gifts of education — 
than by any other means. True, the highest gifts of all no 
man can give to another, even to his child ; but we can store his 
mind with that sound wisdom and learning whereby he may 
attain to the best. 

§ 6. Oi'HER Parents neglect the duty of Education 

UNTIL TOO LATE. 492 C — 493 B. 

Further, there are those — sometimes men of repute for 
practical wisdom — who err in deferring education till the stage 
when the boy finds the rudiments of learning irksome to 
acquire. Yet these same fathers will be over-anxious for their 
children's future fortune even before they be bom. We hear 
of astrologers called in: "the child," it is affirmed, "will be a 
born soldier." "Then let us plan to enter him into the king's 
service." " He will be the very type of a churchman." "Then 
let us work for a bishopric or an abbey for him." And this is 
not thought to be taking care prematurely for a career yet far- 
distant. Why then refuse to provide not less early that the 
boy may be worthily prepared to fill it : so that he grow up not 
only to be a captain of a troop, but a fit and reputable officer 
of the commonwealth ; not merely to be called a bishop, but 
to be made worthy of his charge ? Men seem to me to have 
regard to nothing less than to that end to which all these 
other ends are subordinate. Lands, castles, furnishings, dress, 
servants, all are well cared for, and are of the best : the son of 

1 86 De Pueris Inslituendis, 492 d — 494 f 

the house alone is left untrained, untaught, ignorant, boorish. 
A man buys a slave; he may be useless at first, as knowing 
nothing. Straightway he is tried, and it is quickly found what 
he can best do, and to that craft he is diligently trained. But 
the same man will wholly neglect his son's up-bringing. "He 
will have enough to live upon," he will say. " But not enough 
to live a worthy life," I rejoin. " What need of learning ? 
He will have wealth." "Then the more need of all the 
guidance that Letters and Philosophy can bestow." How 
active, for instance, do princes show themselves to get for 
their sons as large a dominion as they can, whilst no men 
seem to care less that their heirs should be duly educated to 
fulfil the responsibility that must fall to them. The saying of 
Alexander is often quoted : " Were I not Alexander I would 
be Diogenes." But Plutarch is right in his reflection, that the 
very fact that he was lord of so great an empire was, had he 
known it, reason enough for him to desire to be a philosopher 
as well. How much more does that father give his son who 
gives him that by which he may it've worthily than he who 
merely gives that whereby he may live \ 

§ 7. Reason the true mark of Man. 493 b — 494 a. 

Now it is the possession of Reason which constitutes a 
Man. If trees or wild beasts grow, men, believe me, are 
fashioned. Men in olden time who led their life in forests, 
driven by the mere needs and desires of their natures, guided 
by no laws, with no ordering in communities, are to be judged 
rather as savage beasts than as men. For Reason, the mark of 
humanity, has no place where all is determined by appetite. 
It is beyond dispute that a man not instructed through reason 
in philosophy and sound learning is a creature lower than 
a brute, seeing that there is no beast more wild or more 
harmful than a man who is driven hither and thither by 
ambition, or desire, anger or envy, or lawless temper. There- 

De Pueris histituendis, 492 d — 494 f 187 

fore do I conclude that he that provides not that his own son 
may presently be instructed in the best learning is neither a 
man nor the son of a man. Would it not be a horror to look 
upon a human soul clad in the form of a beast, as Circe is 
fabled to have done by her spells ? But is it not worse that a 
father should see his own image slowly but surely becoming 
the dwelling-place of a brute's nature ? It is said a bear's cub 
is at birth but an ill-formed lump which by a long process of 
licking is brought into shape. Nature, in giving you a son, 
presents you, let me say, a rude, unformed creature, which it is 
your part to fashion so that it may become indeed a man. 
If this fashioning be neglected you have but an animal still : 
if it be contrived earnestly and wisely, you have, I had almost 
said, what may prove a being not far from a God. 

§ 8. Education of their children is a Duty owed by 
parents to the commonwealth and to god. 
494 A— 495 A. 

Straightway from the child's birth it is meet that he should 
begin to learn the things which properly belong to his well- 
being. Therefore, bestow especial pains upon his tenderest 
years, as Vergil teaches. Handle the wax whilst it is soft, 
mould the clay whilst it is moist, dye the fleece before it gather 
stains. It is no light task to educate our children aright. 
Yet think — to lighten the burden— how much comfort and 
honour parents derive from children well brought up : and 
reflect how much sorrow is engendered of them that grow up 
evilly. And further, no man is born to himself, no man is 
born to idleness. Your children are begotten not to yourself 
alone, but to your country : not to your country alone, but to 
God. Paul teaches that women are saved by reason that they 
bring up their children in the pursuit of virtue. God will 
straitly charge the parents with their children's faults ; there- 
fore, except they bring up their little ones from the very first to 

1 88 De Pueris Instituendis, 494 f — 496 a 

live aright, they themselves will share the penalty. For a 
child rightly educated is a comfort and a joy to his parents, 
but a foolish child brings upon them shame, it may be poverty, 
and old age before their time. Nay, I know not a few men of 
note and place who have lost their sons by lamentable deaths, 
the results of evil life ; some fathers, indeed, which out of 
many children had scarce one surviving. And this from no 
other cause than that they have made portions for their sons, 
but have taken no heed to train them. They are called 
murderers who kill their new-born children : but such kill the 
mere body. How great, then, is their crime who destroy the 
soul ? For what other thing is the death of the soul than to 
live in folly and sin ? Such fathers do no less wrong to their 
country, to which, as far as in them lies, they give pestilent 
citizens. They do, equally, a wrong against God, at whose 
hands they receive their offspring to bring it up to His 

§ 9. Vicious Habits in which parents encourage their 
children. 495 b — 496 a. 

But there is an education which is worse than none at 
all. For how shall we describe those who go about to imbue 
the tender mind with wickedness, before it be able to know 
what wickedness is ? For example, how can a child grow up 
to modesty and humility who in his very infancy totters in 
the purple? He cannot yet sound his letters, but he knows 
what cramoisie is, and brocade : he craves for dainty dishes 
and disdainfully pushes away simple food. The tailor con- 
trives some new marvel in cap or tunic ; straightway we must 
dress up the child therein ; we tickle his vanity, and then 
we wonder that he develops irritation and self-conceit ! The 
serving-women teach him evil words, and for their amusement 
tempt him to repeat them. He is brought up to sit through 
long feastings ; he hears the noise of jesters, minstrels, and 

De Pueris Instituendis, 494 f — 496 a i 89 

dancers. The guests, nay, his own father, sprawl drunkenly in 
his presence. And yet you pray that he may grow up honest, 
temperate, and pure. I would also denounce those who bring 
up their sons to a love of war. Straight from their mother's 
arms they are bidden to finger swords and shields, to thrust 
and strike. With such tastes, already deeply rooted with years, • 
they are handed over to a master, who is blamed for their 
indifference to worthy interests. If it be urged that parents 
find some pleasure in this evil precocity of their children, let 
me ask if any true father will rather that his son pick up gross 
speech, and copy some shameful act, than hear him, with 
stammering tongue, utter something worthy and true ? Nature 
has made the first years of our life prone to imitation — though 
perhaps it is easier to that age to copy evil than good — and 
with imitativeness she has given also tenacity in retention. 
Hence the mischief that accrues when mothers are allowed to 
keep their children in their lap until they are seven years of 
age : if they want playthings do they not see that monkeys or 
toy-dogs would serve them just as well? For no one can 
exaggerate the importance of these years for character, nor 
the difficulty which such enervating, debasing up-bringing at 
this stage creates for the teachers who then take over the 
task. Menander and Paul were perfectly right : such "evil 
communications corrupt good manners." 

§ 10. Savage Nature teaches the same lesson of Care 
for early training of the young. 496 a — e. 

But if neither love nor reason suffice to teach us our duty, 
let us turn to the example of the brute creation. For mankind 
has admittedly learned therefrom much useful knowledge. 
For instance, the hippopotamus has shown us the method of 
cutting a vein ; the ibis the use of the clyster, so much 
approved by physicians. The stag has taught men that dittany 

IQO De Pueris Instituendis, 496 a — 497 a 

is helpful in drawing out arrows, and that the eating of crabs is 
an antidote to the poison of spiders. Goats have proved that 
ivy is a remedy in certain affections. Lizards use dittany 
against the bite of snakes, their standing foes. From the 
weasel we learnt the use of rue, from the serpent the use of 
fennel in affections of the eye. The dragon is our warrant for 
employing lettuce in sickness. Much more of such knowledge 
have we derived from dumb animals. Practical arts also have 
been acquired from them to our great profit. Nay, I might 
almost say that there is nothing which advantages the life of 
man of which nature has not shown us some example in 
wild creatures, to the end that they who have not learnt 
philosophy and the rational arts may be admonished by them 
what men may do. Attend, therefore, to that which we may 
learn from them as to the training of children. We see that every 
savage creature is not content only to produce its young, but 
teaches it, and shapes it to fulfil its proper function. A bird is, 
indeed, created with instinct for flight, but we see how the 
fiedgUng is led on and guided in its first attempts by the parent 
birds. The cat teaches her kittens to watch, to spring, to kill. 
The stag leads her young in chase, brings them to the leap, 
shows the methods of escape from pursuit. Authors have 
recounted to us that the elephant and the dolphin exhibit 
a veritable art in educating their young ones. So of nightin- 
gales — the old bird goes in front, calls back to, and corrects, 
the young one, which in turn follows and obeys. And I affirm 
that, as the instinct of the dog is to hunt, of the bird to fly, of 
the horse to gallop, so the natural bent of man is to philosophy 
and right conduct. As every creature most readily learns that 
for which it is created, therefore will Man, with but slight 
effort, be brought to follow that to which Nature has given 
him so strong an instinct, viz. excellence, but on one con- 
dition : that Nature be reinforced by the wise energy of the 

De Pueris Instituendis, 496 A — 497 a 191 

§ II. The Three Factors in Individual Progress: 
Nature, Method, Practice. 496 e — 497 a. 

Can anything be more deplorable than to have to admit 
that, whilst an unreasoning animal performs by instinct its 
duty towards its offspring, Man, the creature of Reason, is 
blind to what he owes to Nature, to parental responsibility, 
and to God? But I will now consider definitely the three 
conditions which determine individual progress. They are 
Nature, Training and Practice. By Nature, I mean, partly, 
innate capacity for being trained, partly, native bent towards 
excellence. By Training, I mean the skilled application of 
instruction and guidance. By Practice, the free exercise on 
our own part of that activity which has been implanted by 
Nature and is furthered by Training. Nature without skilled 
Training must be imperfect, and Practice without the method 
which Training supplies leads to hopeless confusion. 

§ 12. The Error of those who think that Experience 


They err, therefore, who affirm that wisdom is won by 
handling affairs and by contact with life, without aid from the 
teaching of philosophy. Tell me, can a man run his best in 
the dark? Or, can a gladiator conquer if he be blindfold? 
The precepts of philosophy — which is knowledge applied to 
life — are, as it were, the eyes of the mind, and lighten us to the 
consciousness of what we may do and may not do. A long and 
manifold experience is, beyond doubt, of great profit, but only 
to such as by the wisdom of learning have acquired an intelli- 
gent and informed judgment. Besides, philosophy teaches us 
more in one year than our own individual experience can teach 
us in thirty, and its teaching carries none of the risks which the 

192 De Pueris Instituendis, 497 b — 498 d 

method of learning by experience of necessity brings with it. 
For example, you educate your son to the mystery of medicine. 
Do you allow him to rely on the method of " experience " in 
order that he may learn to distinguish between poisons and 
healing drugs ? Or, do you send him to the treatises ? It is 
an unhappy education which teaches the master mariner the 
rudiments of navigation by shipwrecks : or the Prince the true 
way of kingship by revolutions, invasions or slaughter. Is it 
not the wise part to learn beforehand how to avoid mischiefs 
rather than with the pains of experience to remedy them? 
Thus Philip of Macedon put his son Alexander to school with 
Aristotle that he might learn philosophy of him, to the end 
that when a king he should be saved from doing things which 
must be repented of. Thus education shews us in brief what 
we should follow, what avoid ; she does not wait till we have 
suffered the evil results of our mistakes, but warns us in advance 
against courses which will lead to failure and misery. Let us, 
therefore, firmly knit up this threefold cord : let Nature be by 
Training guided to wise ends, let Nature and Training, thus 
united, be made perfect by right Practice. 

When we observe animal life, we notice that each creature 
learns, first of all, to perform those things which preserve life 
and to avoid those things which make for pain and destruction. 
This is true not less of plants, as we can see when we contrast 
the close-knit tree of the exposed sea-coast and its fellow 
spreading luxuriantly in warmth and shelter. All living things 
strive to develop according to their proper nature. What is 
the proper nature of Man? Surely it is to live the life of 
Reason, for reason is the peculiar prerogative of man. And 
what is it that in man makes for pain and destruction ? Surely 
it is Folly, which is life without reason. It is, then, certain 
that desire for excellence and aversion to folly come readily to 
man if only his nature, as yet empty of content, be from the 
outset of life filled mth right activities. Yet we hear extravagant 
complaints "how prone is child-nature to wrong, how hard to 

De Pueris Instituendis, 497 b — 498 d 193 

win to excellence." But herein men accuse nature unjustly. 
Parents themselves are to blame in taking little heed for that 
which the child imbibes in his early years. 

§ 13. The Importance of choosing aright the Child's 
FIRST Master : Obstacles arising from Ignorance, 
Indifference, Parsimony. 497 f — 498 e. 

I affirm that at the present day three grave mistakes are 
rife in respect of the first stage of education. Either, there is 
no education at all : or it is begun too late : or it is entrusted 
to wrong hands. 

With the first of these I have already dealt, and have 
proved that fathers guilty of this neglect are no fathers at all. 
And I have shewn that the second error is only less perilous. 
It remains now to discuss the third. Parents fall into the 
mistake of making a wrong choice of teacher through ignorance, 
or rather, perhaps, indifference. A man would not plead that 
he does not know what kind of man has charge of his stud, or 
his farm ; but he seems content to know nothing about the 
man who has charge of a far more precious possession, his own 
son. He will shew much sense in ordering the several duties 
of his servants. The bailiff, the house-steward, the cook, are 
chosen with much discretion. The son of the house, on the 
other hand, is turned over to some dullard or idler, who is 
regarded as useless for a more serious task. And then people 
talk about " Nature's fault " ! 

Or take the case of a father who grudges the pay of a decent 
tutor, whom he puts off with a lower wage than he gives his 
groom. Yet the same niggard will spend a fortune upon 
banquets and wine, upon play, jesters and his mistress. " The 
cheapest thing going to-day," says the Satirist, " is education." 
"I pay my cook," said Crates ironically, "four pounds a year; 
but a philosopher can be hired for about sixpence, and a tutor 
for three half-pence." So to-day a man stands aghast at the 
w. 13 

1 94 De Pueris Instiiuendis, 498 e — 499 c 

thought of paying for his boy's education a sum which would 
buy a foal or hire a farm servant. At a single feast and the 
dicing that follows he will lose two hundred pounds, but he 
complains of extravagance if his son's education cost him 
twenty. Frugality ? Yes, by all means : but in this matter 
of all others frugality is no economy ; it is another name for 

Again, there are those who are ready to consider well the 
choice of a master, but are ready to select a man merely to 
oblige a friend. The suitable man is rejected ; the incompetent 
person fixed upon ; easy compliance, lacking any sense of 
responsibility, decides it all. This is the indifference I spoke 
of; but it is more, it is outrageous folly. For, after all, it 
is not only a question of the boy himself, but of his parents, 
his house, nay, of the commonwealth itself to which he will 

§ 14. The Nursling. 498 e — 499 a. 

The child's nature, as we have said before, is the primitive 
endowment with which he is born, which human purpose can 
do nothing to determine in advance. Still there may be some 
qualification to this. For instance, it imports much in regard 
to the child that the father have chosen a wife of sound health 
and of good stock, with wholesome and virtuous habits. The 
links that bind together mind and body are so close that it 
cannot be but that the physical nature affects the spiritual. 
Again, as the child reflects the disposition of its parents, let 
them observe moderation in appetites and keep strict guard 
over themselves that they should be temperate, not given to 
anger ; the father sober, the mother, especially during the 
months preceding the child's birth, of good conscience and 
free from anxieties. Further, it will be good for the child that 
it be nursed by the mother ; should necessity arise for a foster- 
mother, she must be strong and of right disposition. Neglect 

De Pueris Instituendis, 498 e — 499 c 195 

in this respect may have enduring results for harm, physical 
and moral. For it is at this period that education truly 
begins; not, as some would have it, at the seventh year — 
or the seventeenth ! 

§ 15. The Tutor and his Relation to the Parents. 
499 a — c. 

But the most important of the forces that mould the 
development of the child is the influence of the tutor. In 
choosing him we cannot show too great diligence, enquire too 
carefully, or apply too rigorous tests. The right person once 
secured, we are not to conclude that all is done. Two cautions, 
indeed, seem necessary. First, that masters, like doctors, must 
not be changed except for serious cause. The repeated be- 
ginnings-afresh are as the weaving and unweaving of Penelope's 
web. I have known children who have, by the folly of their 
parents, had as many as a dozen masters before they were as 
many years of age. Secondly, the responsibility of parents for 
the education of their children in no way ceases with the 
appointment of the master. Let the father often visit the 
schoolroom and note the progress made. Amongst the virtues 
praised in Aemilius Paulus this is recorded, that as often as his 
duties to the State allowed he would be present at the lessons 
of his sons. This was also the custom of Pliny. I speak, 
however, now of young children : as they grow up it is wiser to 
remove them somewhat more from their parents' eye. 

§ 16. Individuality of the Child; its Recognition by 
THE Teacher ; its Importance in determining the 
Choice of Subjects to be taught. 499 c — 500 a. 

By the nahire of a man we mean, as a rule, that which is 
common to Man as such : the characteristic, namely, of being 
guided by Reason. But we may mean something less broad 


196 De Pueris Instituendis, 499 d — 500 c 

than this : the characteristic peculiar to each personality, which 
we may call individuality. Thus one child may shew a native 
bent to Mathematics, another to Divinity, another to Rhetoric, 
or Poetry, another to War. So strongly disposed are certain 
types of mind to certain studies that they cannot be won to 
others ; the very attempt in that direction sets up a positive 
repulsion. I was once very intimate with a student, who,, 
having attained a high level in Greek and Latin scholarship, 
and in some other of the liberal arts, was sent by his patron 
the Archbishop to the University to study Law. But this 
discipline he found wholly repugnant to his nature. " I am," 
he told me, " so averse to the Law that when I force myself to 
its study I feel as if a sword were being driven through my 
heart." Minds of that strong determination ought not to be 
forced against their instinct ; it is almost as though we should 
train a cow to box or a donkey to play the violin. 

The Master will be wise to observe such natural inclination, 
such individuality, in the early stages of child life, since we 
learn most easily the things which conform to it. It is not, 
I believe, a vain thing to try and infer from the face and 
bearing of a boy what disposition he will show. Nature has 
not omitted to give us marks for our guidance in this respect. 
Aristotle wrote a work on physiognomy ; and Vergil bids us 
recognise the differences which distinguish one type of cattle 
from another in regard to the uses to which we may put them. 
However, I am personally of opinion that where the method is 
sound, where teaching and practice go hand in hand, any 
discipline may ordinarily be acquired by the flexible intellect 
of man. What, indeed, should be beyond his powers when, 
as we are told, an elephant has been trained to walk a tight- 

De Pueris Instituendis, 499 d — 500 c 197 

§17. The Effects of Training upon Nature in Human 
Beings are certain and are far-reaching. 500 a — 
501 A. 

Making all allowance, however, for the factor of nature in 
education, which is, as we said, self-determined, it is not 
questioned that the other two. Training and Practice, are 
under human control. Training, or Reason brought to bear 
upon Nature, implies capacity for learning ; practice, readiness 
to self-exertion. "But," it is asked, "can you begin Education 
at an age when capacity for learning has not yet developed, 
and when continuous exertion cannot be expected?" My 
reply to this is that children are universally taught manners 
and conduct at the same age; and this implies capacity for 
effort and for learning. A rudimentary capacity, I admit : 
but we are only considering rudiments of Letters and of 
philosophy, or of morals and duty. Animals are trained by 
degrees according to their powers, and so should children be 
inured slowly to study. Nature has implanted in the young 
an ability of their own. It is not for them, I allow, to learn 
the Ethics of Aristotle or the Epistles of St Paul. But if, for 
instance, you correct their manners at table, they obey and 
amend ; when they go to church they learn to bend the knee 
and to bear themselves reverently. Such rudiments of modesty 
and piety the child acquires before he can speak properly, and, 
thus early learnt, they abide in mind and habit until, as the 
boy grows older, they form a living part of his higher nature. 
Notice Nature's teaching. We see how at first the newly-born 
child knows no difference between his parents and strangers. 
By degrees he distinguishes his mother, then his father. 
Respect, obedience, affection follow. From his parents he 
learns to repress anger and vindictiveness, to make up a 
quarrel with a kiss ; he learns to listen without chattering ; 
to rise in the presence of his elders ; to lift his cap as he 

198 De Pueris Instituendis, 500 c — 501 f 

passes a Calvary. Thus it is established that what is poured 
into our nature, so to say, in our earliest years becomes an 
integral part of us. Hence the error, the grave error, of the 
opinion which maintains that the halting steps of the child 
avail nothing to the progress of the boy. " It is always best 
to use the best," even from the very first. For that habit will 
endure longest which you impart whilst the nature is yet tender, 
void, and eager to imitate the actions of others. Clay, perhaps, 
may be sometimes made too moist to retain the mould im- 
pressed upon it ; but I doubt if there be any period of a child's 
progress when he is too young to learn. " No age," said 
Seneca, "is too late for learning." Perhaps. But it is my 
conviction that no age is too early, in respect, that is, of that 
knowledge which Nature has fittingly prescribed for it. By 
which I mean, that nature has planted in the youngest child 
an ape-like instinct of imitation and a delight in activity. 
From this quality springs his first capacity for learning. Hence 
as soon as he is born the child may be trained in conduct ; 
and as soon as he can talk he may by virtue of the same 
imitative instinct be trained in speech and letters. Now note 
this analogy. As in the nursling action anticipates speech, 
so throughout life conduct takes the prior place, and learning 
and the liberal arts must prove themselves her hand-maidens, 
lest erudition haply work ill rather than good to him who 
pursues it. 

§ 18. The Age at which Instruction should begin 
to be considered. 50i a — c. 

The opinion is widely held that children should not be set 
to learn till they are seven years of age. Hesiod is said to 
have been the author of this view, but even if that be true, 
I should not follow him against my own judgment. It is 
probable, however, that this contention implies no more than 
this, that the laborious side of studies, such as learning by 

De Pueris Instituendis, 5CX)C — 501 f 199 

heart, repetition, long written exercises, should be avoided as 
far as possible in early education. If figures are to be men- 
tioned at all, we may remember that Chrysippus judges the 
first three years to be the province of the nurse, during which 
period the child should imbibe right habits and lay the founda- 
tions for that edifice of character and learning which will be 
raised later. And I freely allow that this stage of home education 
is of profound importance. 

§ 19. Right Expression as the Main End of Early 
Instruction, and its Importance for Subsequent 
Progress. 501 c— 502 b. 

The aim of instruction at the first stage should be to teach 
children to speak clearly and accurately, a matter in which both 
parent and nurse share the responsibility. Language, indeed, 
is not simply an end in itself, as we see when we reflect that 
through its neglect whole disciplines have been lost, or, at least, 
corrupted. Think what Theology, Medicine and Law have 
lost from this cause. Upon the question of early training in 
expression, Cicero tells us that those famous orators, the 
Gracchi, owed their distinction largely to Cornelia : " their 
first school was their mother's knee." Laelia is a similar 
instance, for she, like Mutia and Licinia, was brought up as 
a girl in an atmosphere of dignified and refined conversation. 
We must not forget that besides parents, tutors, serving-women, 
and playfellows, all have marked influence upon a child's 
manner of speaking. For it is in speech that the imitative 
instinct is specially active. We know that a German boy will 
pick up French unconsciously almost, but most successfully, 
if only he have opportunity when very young. Now if this be 
possible in a language which is barbarous and unformed, in 
which spelling never follows pronunciation, whose sounds are 
mere noises for which the throat of man was never framed, 
how much more readily should he learn the tongues of Greece 

2CX) De Pueris Instituendis, 501 f — 503 b 

and Rome ? Mithridates could administer justice in two-and- 
twenty dialects and languages : Themistocles, when well ad- 
vanced in years, learnt Persian in a twelvemonth. To what, 
then, may not the plastic mind and tongue of a boy attain ? 
For the learning of a language is partly, as we have suggested, 
a matter of imitation ; and it is partly a matter of memory. It 
is as instinctive with children to imitate as it is easy for them 
to remember ; while to a man of my age it is difficult to recall 
exactly a fact read two days ago. How few people do we meet 
who have been able to learn a new language, especially in 
respect of accent, in middle life ! Cato the elder may be 
quoted as one of these ; but his namesake of Utica is a far 
more trustworthy pattern for us, as he was the more learned 
and eloquent of the two, and he was taught Greek from the 

§ 20. The Importance of this Early Training ought 
TO lead Parents to ask themselves how far they 
can follow the example of the Ancients in 


Children. 502 b — 503 b. 

But we may not forget that children are prone to follow the 
allurement of the senses rather than the rule of reason ; to 
store up in mind what is trivial or bad rather than what is of 
enduring worth. This fact of human nature sorely puzzled 
the ancient philosophers, but has its key in the Christian 
doctrine of Original Sin. True as this explanation is, we are 
not to forget the part played by faulty training, particularly in 
the first and most impressionable stage. Wherefore, I bid 
you recall how Alexander allowed that he had been unable to 
forget some things which he had learnt, to his hurt, from his 
tutor in early boyhood ; and how the Romans in the days of 
their prime refused to yield the charge of their sons to any 
hired person. In those days the parents and other kinsmen 

De Pueris Instituendis, 501 F — 503 B 201 

taught the growing boy ; for instance, it was held the truest 
honour to the family that as many children as possible of the 
name should have repute for learning. Nowadays the mark of 
a noble house seems to consist in exhibiting coats of arms, in 
giving feasts, in play and sport ; and the only service which 
elders perform for their sons is to provide them with rich 
marriages. Meantime it is thought natural that as a child he 
should be left in charge of a man ignorant of learning and of 
illiberal condition. In old days careful parents trained up a 
slave specially fit in learning that he might act as a tutor, or 
they bought one already skilled. But it were wiser that the 
parents should qualify themselves to this task. If it be 
objected that time is lacking, I point to the flagrant waste of 
leisure in play and entertainments, ' and in the stupid social 
"duties of our station." He has but lukewarm love for his 
son who grudges the time for teaching him. I admit that the 
Romans had the great advantage of a single tongue under- 
stood universally ; but, in spite of drawbacks in our own day, 
certain parents of distinction have undertaken the duty of 
training their own children. Amongst these I name Thomas 
More. He, although deeply occupied in affairs of the State, 
devoted his leisure to the instruction of his wife, his son, and 
his daughters, both in the uprightness of life and in the 
liberal studies of Greek and Latin. The common tongue of 
the people may be left to be picked up in the ordinary 
intercourse of life. 

Should, however, neither parent be a suitable instructor to 
the child, then, I admit, we must secure the services of an 
able and experienced teacher. But the father should hesitate 
to take an untried man. In many things, perhaps, negligence 
may find its pardon ; but here the eyes of Argus himself are 
wanted. There is a proverb that teaches us that in war a 
general may not make iwo mistakes. In planning his son's 
education a father dare hardly make one. 

202 De Pueris Instituendis, 503 b — 504 A 

§21. The Objection that Health is endangered by 
Close Application on the part of the Young 
Child. 503 b — e. 

We have to meet an argument against early training drawn 
from the superior importance of health. Personally I venture 
to regard the mental advantages gained as outweighing some 
slight risks in the matter of physical vigour. We are not 
concerned with developing athletes, but scholars and men 
competent to affairs, for whom we desire adequate constitu- 
tions indeed, but not the physique of a Milo. I should, 
certainly, always advise moderation in the amount of mental 
exertion demanded, but I have little patience with critics who 
only become anxious about the youthful constitution when 
education is mooted ; but who are indifferent to the far more 
certain risks of over-feeding, late hours, and unsuitable dress- 
ing, which are the common indulgences allowed to children in 
the classes about w^hom I am here concerned. In the same 
way some parents profess alarm lest premature study affect the 
complexion or figure of their child. This is justifiable to 
some degree, but we ought not to think too much of such 
attractions in a boy. Here again evil habits, brawling, and 
intemperance are far more serious causes of this kind of 

But if the teaching be of a wise sort the danger of harm 
will be wholly negligeable. For the effort required will be but 
slight, subjects will be few, attractively taught, and adapted to 
the age and tastes of the scholar. Such study may hardly be 
distinguished from play, and is a source of enjoyment to the 

De Pueris Instituendis, 503 b — 504 a 203 

§ 22. The Disposition of the Teacher. 503 e — 504 a. 

Seeing, then, that children in the earliest stage must be 
beguiled and not driven to learning, the first requisite in the 
Master is a gentle sympathetic manner, the second a know- 
ledge of wise and attractive methods. Possessing these two 
important qualifications he will be able to win the pupil to find 
pleasure in his task. It is a hindrance to a boy's progress, 
which nothing will ever nullify, when the master succeeds in 
making his pupil hate learning before he is old enough to 
like it for its own sake. For a boy is often drawn to a subject 
first for his master's sake, and afterwards for its own. Learn- 
ing, like many other things, wins our liking for the reason that 
it is offered to us by one we love. But, on the other hand, 
there is a type of man of manners so uncouth, of expression 
so forbidding, of speech so surly, that he repels even when he 
by no means intends it. Now men of that stamp are wholly 
unfit to be teachers of children ; a man who loves his horse 
would hardly put such a man to have charge of his stable. 
Yet there are parents who think such a temper as I have 
described well adapted to breaking in the young child, thinking, 
perhaps, that seriousness of that sort betokens a proper 
gravity. Therein may lie a great error, inasmuch as that 
demeanour may cloak a depraved nature, which, delighting in 
tyranny, cows and breaks the spirit of the pupil. Fear is of no 
real avail in education : not even parents can train their 
children by this motive. Love must be the first influence; 
followed and completed by a trustful and affectionate respect, 
which compels obedience far more surely than dread can 
ever do. 

204 De Pueris InsHtuendis, 504 a — 504 f 

§ 23. The Evil Condition of the Schools, especially 
THE Private Schools, in the Present Day. 504 a — d. 

What shall we say then of the type of school too common 
at the present time ? A boy scarce four years old is sent to 
school to a master about whose qualifications for the work no 
one knows anything. Often he is a man of uncouth manners, 
not always sober ; maybe he is an invalid, or crippled, or even 
mentally deficient. Anyone is good enough to put over the 
grammar school in popular opinion. Such a man, finding 
himself clothed with an unlocked for and unaccustomed 
authority, treats his charges as we should expect. The school 
is, in effect, a torture chamber ; blows and shouts, sobs and 
howls, fill the air. Then it is wondered that the growing boy 
hates learning ; and that in riper years he hates it still. There 
are parents who will send their children to learn reading and 
writing at a dame's school, kept by some incompetent, ill- 
tempered, perhaps drunken creature. Now as a general 
principle I should affirm that it is contrary to Nature that men 
should be placed under the exclusive control of women ; for 
women are not only lacking in the necessary self-control, but 
when aroused are prone to extreme vindictiveness and cruelty. 
Nor can I personally, though few agree with me, advise parents 
to send their sons to school in Monasteries or in the Houses 
of the Brethren. For, whilst allowing the teaching Brothers 
to be often good, kindly men, they are usually too narrow and 
ignorant to be fit to educate children. The monks make a 
good income out of their schools, which are conducted no one 
knows how, and are jealously hidden away in the inner re- 
cesses of the convent. So I strongly urge : Choose for your 
boy a public school, or keep him at home. 

De Pueris Instituendis, 504 a — 504 f 205 

§ 24. Excessive Punishment the Characteristic of 
Worthless Schools and of Weak Teachers. 504 d 
—507 E. 

A poor master, we are prepared to find, relies almost 
wholly upon fear of punishment as the motive to work. To 
frighten an entire class is easier than to teach one boy properly : 
for the latter is, and always must be, a task as serious as it is 
honourable. It is equally true of States : the rule which 
carries the respect and consent of the citizens demands higher 
qualities in the Prince than does the tyranny of force. 

Scotsmen say that they find the French schoolmaster the 
most thorough-going flogger in Europe : to which the Gaul 
replies that, if it is true, it is because the Frenchman knows his 
Scot. Perhaps there is a difference in the method by which 
the youth of different countries needs to be handled, though 
for my part I consider it far more a matter of individual than 
of national temperament. For instance, there are natures 
which you will rather break than bend by flogging : whilst by 
kindness and wise stimulus you may do anything with them. 
I confess that I personally am constituted in this way. Once, 
my master, with whom I was really on very good terms, a man, 
too, who had formed a flattering idea of my capacities, con- 
ceived a wish to try how far I could stand the test of a very severe 
discipline. So, watching his opportunity, he charged me with 
some offence that I had not even dreamt of committing, and 
thrashed me. Now, that piece of tyranny then and there 
annihilated in me all further interest in learning, and so 
dejected, so broken was I, that I gradually fell into a low 
feverish state. So when my master — no fool and not a bad 
man at heart, as I have said — realised what he had done, he 
came forward and admitted his mistake. " I nearly succeeded 
in ruining his disposition before I had learnt to understand it," 

2o6 De Pueris Instituendis, 504 f — 507 a 

he said. But his repentance came too late to alter the con- 
sequences, so far as my attitude to him was concerned. 

Do schoolmasters consider how many earnest, studious 
natures have been by treatment of this type — the hangman 
type — crushed into indifference? Masters who are conscious 
of their own incompetence are generally the worst floggers. 
What else, indeed, can they do ? They cannot teach, so they 
beat. By degrees it becomes a positive pleasure to them to 
torture, especially when they are self-indulgent men, or 
slothful or cruel by nature. 

I know particularly well a certain Churchman of great 
distinction who selected the masters of his school from 
amongst the more accomplished wielders of the birch. 
Flogging, in his educational doctrine, was the prime instru- 
ment for " softening and purifying " boys' natures. It was his 
practice when the mid-day meal was over to order one or 
other of the boys to be brought out and cruelly thrashed : the 
innocence or guilt of the boy was not in question. I was 
present on one occasion when he had before him a lad of 
about ten years of age, only just admitted to the school. My 
churchman proceeded to tell us that the boy had been carefully 
brought up, and had been specially commended to his charge 
by his mother. A wholly groundless complaint was laid 
against him. The birch was thereupon handed to the wretched 
ministrant charged with this duty, who so lost all self-control 
in his task that the churchman himself had to call halt. The 
boy swooned away. Then said the divine : " The lad, of 
course, has done nothing to deserve all this, but it is necessary 
to curb his spirit by wholesome discipline." But who would 
dream of training a horse or a slave after this fashion? By 
patience and kindliness, and not by violence, men tame the 
lion's whelp and the young elephant. No beast is so wild but 
that it may be subdued by gentle handling, and none so tame 
but that cruelty will rouse it to anger. 

It is, indeed, the mark of the servile nature to be drilled by 

De Pueris Instituendis, 504 f — 507 a 207 

fear; why then do we suffer children (whose very name im- 
ports free men, " liberi " — those born fit for a " liberal " 
training — ), to be treated as slaves might be ? Yet even slaves, 
who are men like the rest of us, are by wise masters freed 
from something of their servile state by humane control. Let 
a father stand towards his son in a more kindly relation than 
that of a master to his serfs. If we put away tyrants from 
their thrones, why do we erect a new tyranny for our own sons? 
Is it not meet that Christian peoples cast forth from their 
midst the whole doctrine of slavery in all its forms? Paul 
shews us that a slave is a " dear brother "' ; and that all 
Christian believers, whether bond or free, are fellow-servants 
to one Lord. In speaking of parents as regards their children 
the Apostle warns them that they " provoke not their children 
to wrath, but bring them up in the chastening and admonition 
of the Lord." And what the " chastening" of the Lord Jesus 
should imply, he may readily perceive who considers with what 
gentleness, forgiveness, affection, He trained, cherished, and 
bore with, his own disciples. Contrast with this the story of 
Auxon, a Roman knight, who for cruelty towards his own son 
was dragged by the crowd into the Forum, fiercely handled, 
and with difficulty rescued with his life. I fear that there 
be many Auxons living still. I could tell you certain stories of 
wicked cruelty by schoolmasters which it is hard to believe, but 
for which I vouch my own personal knowledge. In one case 
in especial, where foul torture was employed, the child, whom I 
knew, — he was twelve years of age — very nearly died from the 
ill-usage. He was the innocent victim of some prank played 
by a school-fellow, who was a favourite with the master, an 
incompetent and worthless creature, and, therefore, given to 
violent floggings to enforce his authority. I can only say that 
hanging the luckless child up by the arms and flogging him 
as he hung till the brutal master was too tired to go on, was 
the least disgusting part of the punishment. The Scythians 
or Phrygians of old were less inhuman. Once more, I cannot 

2o8 De Pueris Instituendis, 507 b — 508 d 

forget the rough horse-play which awaited every newly-arrived 
student at my old College. The brutality of it and the in- 
tolerable torments devised by the youthful wits I do not care 
to particularise. Risks of permanent bodily injury were con- 
stantly experienced : and the ceremony ended in a noisy 
carouse. It was an "initiation," forsooth, into a course of 
training in the liberal arts : it was naturally well-adapted to 
turn out the flogging masters whom I have just described. 
The worst of it was that the authorities winked at the scandal; 
it was " the tradition," and it was, therefore, " unwise to inter- 
fere," and so on. As though the fact that an evil tradition is 
deep-rooted in the past does not make the stronger call upon 
sensible men for its abolition. Should not they who pursue 
the studies we term " liberal " cultivate a type of humour also 
to match? 

§ 25. The Permissible Instruments of Discipline. 
507 E— 508 D. 

Teaching by beating, therefore, is not a liberal education. 
Nor should the schoolmaster indulge in too strong and too 
frequent language of blame. Medicine constantly repeated 
loses its force. You may quote against me the old proverb : 
" He that spareth the rod hateth his own son." Well, perhaps, 
that may have been true of Jews. But I do not accept it as 
true for Christians to-day. If we are to " bow the necks " and 
"chastise," as we are bidden to do, let us see to it that the rod 
we use is the word of guidance or of rebuke, such as a free 
man may obey, that our discipline be of kindness and not of 
vindictiveness. Lycon, the philosopher, sets forward these 
two spurs to industry : shame, and desire for praise. Shame is 
the fear of just reproach ; by praise a boy is quickened to 
excel in all he does. Let these, then, be the schoolmaster's 
weapons to-day. And I can add another : " unwearied pains 
conquer all things," says the poet. Let us watch, let us en- 

De Pueris Instituendis, 507 b — 508 d 209 

courage, let us press and yet again press, that by learning, by 
repeating, by diligent listening, the boy may feel himself 
carried onward towards his goal. Let him learn to respect 
and to love integrity and knowledge, to hate ignorance and 
dishonour. Bid him regard those who are lauded for their 
virtues, be warned by those who are denounced for their 
ill-doing. Set before him the example of men to whom learn- 
ing has brought high praise, dignity, repute and position. 
Warn him of the fate of those who by the neglect of high 
wisdom have sunk into contempt, poverty, disgrace and evil 
life. These are your instruments of discipline, my Christian 
teacher, worthy of your calling and of your flock. But should 
none of these avail, then, if it must be so, let the rod be used 
with due regard to self-respect in the manner of it. But I am, 
at heart, with Quintilian in deprecating flogging under any 
conditions. If then you ask, " What is to be done with boys 
who respond to no other spur ? " My answer is : " What 
would you do if an ox or an ass strayed into your school- 
room ? " Turn him out to the plough or the pack-saddle, no 
doubt. Well, so there are boys good only for the farm and 
manual toil : send your dunces there for their own good. 
"Yes," says the master, "but I want my fees." There I 
cannot help you : your duty is t^ the boy. But I fear that 
this matter of profit lies at the root of the whole matter. 

§ 26. The Provision of Fit Teachers of Youth is a 
National Duty in which both Church and State 


The ancients drew the ideal of the wise man and of the 
Orator — types never realised in fact. So it is easier to outline 
the ideal schoolmaster than to find him in reality. Which 
brings me to claim it as a duty incumbent on Statesmen and 
Churchmen alike to provide that there be a due supply of men 
qualified to educate the youth of the nation. It is a public 

w. 14 

210 De Pueris Instituendis, 508 e — 509 f 

obligation in no way inferior, say, to the ordering of the army. 
Vespasian is an example, in that out of his Treasury he main- 
tained Greek and Latin teachers ; and the younger Pliny of 
his private fortune did the same. And if the community be 
backward in this respect, yet should every head of a house- 
hold do all that he can to provide for the education of his 

Now you may rejoin, that men of poor station, whose 
efforts are absorbed in nurturing their families, can do nothing 
for them besides. I have nothing to say except this : " We 
must do as we may, when we cannot do as we would." But 
the liberality of the rich can be most wisely exercised here, in 
enabling innate powers to attain their due development by 
removing the hindrance imposed by poverty. 

§ 27. The Qualities Desirable in a Good Master. 
508 E— 509 B. 

Although I have urged the need of gentleness, let it not 
decline into unwise familiarity towards the pupil ; a degree of 
formal authority must be maintained, such as marked the 
relation of Sarpedon towards the young Cato, who rendered 
his master great affection and equal reverence. What would 
the master do who can only teach by flogging, if he were set 
up as tutor in a royal household, where no such discipline is 
for a moment allowed? "Oh," he rejoins, "such pupils are 
not of the common order." "How then? Are not the 
children of a citizen men ? Do not citizens love their sons no 
less than kings ? " If they be poor men, the more need have 
they of learning in order to minister to their deficiency; if 
they be rich, in order to learn to govern their wealth aright. 
Not a few born in low estate are called to high station, as to 
Bishoprics. All men do not rise to so great distinction, yet 
ought all to gain by right education the opportunity of so 

De Pueris Instituendis, 508 e — 509 f 211 

rising. Now I have said enough of that evil class of school- 
master which only knows how to beat: but I cannot too 
seriously deplore that the scandal is in our day so widely 

§ 28. The Need of Sympathy in one who shall 
TEACH Young Children. 509 b — f. 

It is the mark of a good teacher to stand towards his 
charge somewhat in the relation of a parent : both learning 
and teaching are made easier thereby. He will also in a 
sense become a boy again that he may draw his pupil to 
himself. Though this by no means justifies the choice of the 
old and infirm as teachers of youth : these indeed have no 
need to simulate a childish temper, they are only too truly 
once more in their second infancy. Rather should the master 
be in the full vigour of early manhood, able to sympathise 
naturally with youth, ready to adapt himself to its demands. 
He will follow in his first instruction the methods of the 
mother in the earliest training of her nursling. As she 
prattles baby language, stirs and softens baby food, stoops and 
guides the tottering steps — so will the master act in things of 
the mind. Slowly is the transition made to walking alone, or 
to eating solid food ; the tender frame is thus carefully 
hardened. In exactly the same manner instruction is at first 
simple, taught by way of play, taught by degrees. The sense 
of effort is lost in the pleasure of such natural exercise : in- 
sensibly the mind becomes equal to harder tasks. Wholly 
wrong are those masters who expect their little pupils to act as 
though they were but diminutive adults, who forget the 
meaning of youth, who have no standard of what can be done 
or be understood except that of their own minds. Such a 
master will upbraid, exact, punish, as though he were dealing 
with students as old as himself, and forgets that he was ever 
himself a child. Pliny warned such a one when he spoke thus 


212 De Pueris Instituendis, 509 f — 510F 

to a master : " Remember that your pupil is but a youth 
still, and that you were once one yourself." But how often 
does the schoolmaster of to-day prove by his harsh discipline 
that he wholly forgets this simple truth ! 

§ 29. What subjects may be most suitably chosen for 
THE First Steps in Education. 509 f — 510 d. 

To treat next of the matter which may be wisely taught 
the little child. First of all, I give the leading place to practice 
in spoken language, which it is so great a task for adults to 
accomplish. As I have already said, this is an exercise of the 
child's powers of imitation, which it shares with certain birds. 
As an aid to this study can anything be better adapted to the 
youthful capacity than the reading of ancient Fables? For 
they appeal by their romance, they are good for moral lessons, 
they help vocabulary. There is nothing a boy more readily 
listens to than an apologue of Aesop, who under cover of 
pleasant story teaches the youth the very essence of philosophy. 
You relate, again, how Circe transforms the comrades of 
Ulysses into swine and other animals. It is a story to rouse 
interest and, perhaps, amusement ; but the lesson is therein 
driven home that men who will not yield to the guidance of 
reason, but follow the enticements of the senses, are no more 
than brute beasts. Could a stoic philosopher preach a graver 
truth ? The poetry styled Bucolic is easy to understand ; 
Comedy is intelligible to boys, and teaches them many deep 
truths of life in its lighter vein. Then it is time to teach the 
names of objects — a subject in which even learned men are 
apt to be uncertain. Lastly, short sentences containing quaint 
conceits, proverbs, pithy sayings, such as in ancient times were 
the current coin of philosophy. 

But do not forget that children are not seldom seen to 
show a peculiar bent to particular disciplines, such as Music, 
Arithmetic or Geography. I have myself known young pupils 

De PuejHs Instituendis, 509 f — 510F 213 

who, though backward in all that concerned Grammar or Rhe- 
toric, had much facility in these less rigid yet more recondite 
subjects. Nature, therefore, claims the help of the school- 
master in carrying forward the special gifts with which she has 
endowed the child. By following the path which she points 
out the toil of learning is reduced : whilst on the other hand 
nothing can be well accomplished inviia Minerva. 

§ 30. Pleasurable methods must be devised in the 
First Stages of Teaching. 510 d — 511 c. 

Progress in learning a language is much furthered if the 
child be brought up amongst people who are gifted talkers. 
Descriptions and stories are impressed the better if to good 
narrative power the teacher or parent can add the help of 
pictorial illustration. The same method can be more par- 
ticularly applied to the teaching of natural objects. Names 
and characteristics of trees, flowers, and animals can be thus 
learnt : specially is this plan needful where the creature de- 
scribed is wholly unfamiliar to the child, as for instance the 
rhinoceros, the tragelaphus, the onocrotalus, the Indian ass, 
and the elephant. A picture is shown, containing an elephant, 
in combat with a dragon. At once the class shows curiosity. 
How shall the master proceed ? He states the Greek and Latin 
names for elephant, giving the Latin genitive case as well. He 
then points to the trunk, giving the Greek and Latin for it, and 
the purpose of the organ : he will explain that the elephant 
breathes as well as feeds by its means. The tusks are next 
dealt with, the uses and rarity of ivory ; if possible he will 
produce something made of it. The dragon is shown to be of 
the large Indian species. He states the Greek and Latin 
equivalents for 'dragon,' their similarity in form, and their 
feminines. He will instil the fact that between the dragon and 
the elephant there is, instinctively and constantly, a ruthless 
war. If any boy is keen for further knowledge in the subject, 

214 De Pueris Instituendis, 511 a — e 

the Master will add many other facts concerning the nature 
and habits of these two great beasts. Boys, too, will generally 
be attracted by pictures of hunting scenes, through which 
a wealth of information about trees, plants, birds, and animals 
may be imparted in a most delightful and yet instructive 
manner. In choosing subject-matter of this kind it is desirable 
to take some pains to discuss what is naturally attractive to the 
youthful mind, and discard what is of too advanced a kind. 
Remember always that youth is the springtime of life, when 
harvests are sown and flowers bloom. But autumn is the 
season for ripe fruits and laden wains. Hence, as only folly 
will look for purple grapes in May, so no Master who under- 
stands his task will demand the tastes and powers of maturity 
from the growing child. Brightness, attractiveness, these make 
the only appeals to a boy in the field of learning. Is not this why 
the ancients fabled the Muses to be comely maidens, given to 
the song and the dance, and companions to the Graces ? It 
was their doctrine also that excellence in true learning was 
only to be attained by those who find pleasure in its pursuit ; 
and for this cause the liberal arts were by them called ' Hu- 

Yet there is no reason why in this early stage of education 
utility should not go hand in hand with delight. On the 
method which I have here sketched nothing hinders that a 
boy learn a pretty story from the ancient poets, or a memorable 
tale from history, just as readily as the stupid and vulgar ballad, 
or the old wives' fairy rubbish such as most children are steeped 
in nowadays by nurses and serving women. Who can think 
without shame of the precious time and energy squandered 
in listening to ridiculous riddles, stories of dreams, of ghosts, 
witches, fairies, demons ; of foolish tales drawn from popular 
annals ; worthless, nay, mischievous stuff of the kind which is 
poured into children in their nursery days ? 

De Pueris Instituendis, 5 1 1 a — e 2 1 5 

§ 31. The work of Educating the Young is a. part 
OF the Service we owe to God. 511 c — d. 

" Granting your contention " — so it may be said — " that we 
should sweep away this rubbish and place education of the 
very young on a higher plane, who will consent to stoop to this 
trying task?" "Well," I reply, "Aristotle, Cheiron, Eli, are 
examples to my hand. I only ask for the same kind of efifort 
that people are willing to bestow upon training a parrot to 
talk." What of the pious folk who will make long and dan- 
gerous pilgrimages and perform exacting penances to please 
the Deity ? And yet can any duty be more agreeable to God 
than the right up-bringing of the young ? No gloom, no self- 
mortification, no exhausting effort is demanded in this service : 
diligence, patience, a cheerful demeanour, will accomplish all. 
Nay, the very shadow of harsh, exacting toil and compulsion 
should be banished from the field. 

^32. Methods of Early Instruction again touched 
UPON. 511 d — 512 e. 

Ability to speak is easily learned by use. Next come the 
arts of reading and writing, where the skill of the teacher can 
do much to lighten the monotony of learning. Much time is 
commonly wasted in teaching the child to know his letters and 
to pronounce words, which could be spent on more important 
matters to far greater profit. Reading, indeed, should be 
attacked on methods practised in Roman schools. Letters 
were made in biscuit form and when learnt were allowed to be 
eaten. Ivory letters were used, by means of which words were 
composed by the scholar. And other devices could be em- 
ployed. In England I heard of a father who taught his boy to 
aim with bow and arrow at Greek or Roman letters painted on 
a target ; a hit meant a cherry for the archer. This could be 

2 1 6 De Pueris Instituendis, 5 1 1 f — 5 1 3 a 

carried out as a competition in a class of boys : for as it was, 
the boy learnt all his letters, their names and sounds, in a few 
days instead of as many months. 

I would not, however, encourage learning by games of chess 
or dice ; nor any devices whose complexity is such that the 
" aid " costs more to learn than the subject itself. There are 
machines so intricate that they hinder work rather than shorten 
it. Amongst the devices I have in mind is the whole class 
of mnemonic puzzles, put forth merely for their ingenuity, or 
as a means of making money. Believe me, there is only one 
sound mnemonic art, and it has three rules : understand, 
arrange, repeat. 

A clever Teacher will utilise the motive of emulation 
amongst children ; for this will often be found effective with 
boys who will not respond to warnings, to encouragement, or to 
the offer of rewards. Now the award of the prize must by no 
means preclude the losers from the chances of proving them- 
selves winners later on : and there may be circumstances under 
which the master will be wise in granting the first place to one 
who is not ahead in actual attainment. The due alternation of 
praise and blame will often provoke keenness. Should you 
reply that a master may be unwilling to take these pains to 
adapt his teaching to the youthful mind, I rejoin that, in such 
case, he is in my judgment unfit for his work. 

I allow that the first steps in Latin Grammar are not in 
themselves attractive to boys. But for this I blame, not a little, 
the lack of judgment in the master. He should confine his 
teaching to the things that matter. But as a rule the young 
beginner is worried, let us say, about the names of the letters, 
before he knows one of them by sight, or about the case of 
" Musae," or the tense of " legeris," before he has learnt his 
accidence. And what beatings are apt to follow failure ! 
Again, a shallow mind will, in order to parade its thin layer of 
knowledge before the class, import wholly unnecessary diffi- 
culty into a lesson ; this happens especially in teaching Logic. 

De Pueris Instituendis, 511 f — 5 13 a 217 

They are ways by which the rudiments are made harder than 
they need be. No doubt I shall be told, "/had to learn 
Latin in this manner when I was a boy; what was good enough 
for me must do for him." 

§ 33. Difficulties should be attacked Patiently. 
512 E— 513 A. 

My principles of method then are briefly these. First, do 
not hurry, for learning comes easily when the proper stage is 
reached. Second, avoid a difficulty which can be safely 
ignored or at least postponed. Third, when the difficulty 
musi be handled, make the boy's approach to it as gradual 
and as interesting as you can. Lucretius tells us that doctors 
used to sweeten the rim of the medicine glass with honey. We 
know that imagination often magnifies a difficulty in life. So 
in teaching, lead the beginner to face his unfamiliar matter 
with self-confidence, to attack it slowly but with persistence. 
We must not under-rate the capacity of youth to respond to 
suitable demands upon the intelligence. Youth indeed lacks 
that sheer force which marks the bull, but on the other hand 
Nature has given it something of the tenacity and industry of 
the ant. The child, like every other creature, excels in the 
precise activity which belongs to it. How else could he race 
about for hours and not be tired? But such exercise is in- 
stinctive, it is play to him, there is no sense of toil about it, no 
compulsion. Follow Nature, therefore, in this, and so far as is 
possible take from the work of the school all that implies toil- 
someness, and strive to give to learning the quality of freedom 
and of enjoyment. Systematic games must be encouraged as 
a needful relaxation when boys reach the higher stages of their 
subject, and can no longer postpone close application and hard 
work. Such subjects are Greek composition, Latin composition 
from the Greek, and cosmography. But I would say that no 

2 1 8 De Pueris Instituendis, 5 1 3 A — 5 1 4 a 

aid to progress is more effectual than are the boy's reverent 
affection for his master, his love of learning, and his ambition 
to rank with the best. 

§ 34. The argument that the Educational Result 


JUSTIFY THE Trouble or Expense involved. 513 a — 
514 A. 

The contention that the time and the outlay involved in 
this early education are wasted is unworthy of anyone who 
realises what true fatherhood implies. Grant, with Quintilian, 
that the boy may acquire in one year after he has passed 
his fifth birthday as much as he can during the whole of the 
previous years, is that a reason for sacrificing what you admit 
to be equivalent to the harvest of a twelvemonth ? Nor is the 
alternative merely that the boy may learn nothing ; for he will 
undoubtedly be learning that which he must later unlearn. 
The training which I propose will serve to interest and occupy 
the growing child from the time when he can understand and 
be understood. The youthful mind is ever acquiring some- 
thing — good or evil. The progress made, slight as it may be, 
is a saving of labour at a later stage, when the entire time and 
energy of the pupil are set free, as Quintilian says, for work of 
greater difficulty. Need I repeat what has been said concern- 
ing the aptitude of early childhood to some studies ? I cannot, 
indeed, allow that it is a trivial gain that a child should win 
acquaintance with two languages, and learn to read and write. 
A merchant is far from despising the day of small things ; he 
knows that "little" is the necessary beginning of "much." 

Can we, in fact, afford to throw away four years of our 
children's lives, when we know that the two hardest things to 
overtake in this world are time lost and learning neglected? 
We can never be said to begin too soon a task which we can 
never live to finish : for a man may cease to learn only when 

De Pueris Instituendis, 5 1 3 a — 5 1 4 a 219 

he ceases to live. In all other departments of life we may 
succeed in recovering what we have lost by neglect. Time, 
however, when once it has flown by — and it flies very quickly — 
obeys no summons to return. There is no such miracle as 
a fountain of perpetual youth : no physic which can make old 
men young again. Of time, then, let us always be sparing ; of 
youthful years most of all, for this is the best part of man's life, 
the most profitable, if it be rightly guarded. No farmer will 
see his land lying fallow, not even a little field, but he will sow 
it with young grasses, or lay it down to pasture, or use it as a 
garden. And shall we suffer the best part of our life to pass 
without any fruit of wisdom ? Land, as we know, when newly 
ploughed up must be sown with some crop, lest it bear a harvest 
of weed. So the tender mind, unless it be forthwith sown with 
true instruction, will harbour evil seeds. The child grows up 
either to goodness or to unworthiness : if the latter, there is the 
hard task of up-rooting. The child has gained no small thing 
who has escaped evil. See, then, how in various ways it profits 
that he be early brought up in learning. 

§ 35. Examples of the Proficiency of Youth and its 
Importance for Later Life. 514 a — e. 

But is there need to labour this ? How steeped in learning 
from their very infancy were men of old time ! How helpless 
are their successors to-day ! Ovid and Lucan composed not 
a little of their poetry in their youth : who can now boast the 
same ? Lucan when but six months old was brought to Rome 
and was soon after placed under the two best teachers of 
Grammar in the city. For companions he had Bassus and 
Persius : the former a historian, the latter the famous satirist. 
No doubt we have here the secret of that notable learning and 
eloquence, whereby Lucan is distinguished as the typical ora- 
torical poet of ancient Rome. In modern days how rare are 

2 20 De Pueris Instituendis, 514B — 5 16 a 

examples of similar distinction ! Poliziano has celebrated the 
erudition of Cassandra : and in a letter of elegant Latinity has 
recorded the genius of the boy Orsini, who at the age of eleven 
could dictate two Latin letters at once, letters which in com- 
position and scholarly diction struck scholars with admira- 
tion. This experiment he on one occasion repeated five times, 
a feat which some observers ascribed to witchcraft. Well, 
I will allow this explanation, if by it you mean the "enchant- 
ment " that is worked by setting the boy from earliest childhood 
to work under the example and stimulus of a learned, sincere, 
and conscientious Master. 

By such " enchantments " Alexander of Macedon shewed 
himself master alike of eloquence and of philosophy ; in which 
indeed he might have attained great distinction had he not 
been lured away by ambition and by passionate ardour for war. 
By the same arts Julius Caesar became proficient in oratory 
and in the mathematical disciplines. Cicero, Vergil, and 
Horace, not a few of the earlier Emperors, became men of 
approved learning and of classic style, by reason of the diligent 
use they were led to make of their early years. For they were 
taught by their parents from the very nursery the art of refined 
speech, and were afterwards passed on to masters by whom 
they were grounded in the liberal arts, in Poetry, Rhetoric, 
History, Antiquity; in Arithmetic; in Geography, and in 
Philosophy, both moral and political. 

§ 36. The Sad Condition of Teaching and of Schools 
IN Modern Days. 514 e — 516 a. 

What a contrast when we look around to-day ! We see 
boys kept at home in idleness and self-indulgence until they are 
fourteen or fifteen years of age. They are then sent to some 
school or other. There, if they are lucky, they gain some 
touch of Grammar, the simpler inflections, the agreement of 
noun and adjective. They are then supposed to "know" 

De Pueris Instituendis, 514 b — 5 1 6 a 221 

Latin, and are put on to some terrible text in Logic, which 
will spoil what little good Latin accidence or syntax they have 
acquired. My own childhood was tortured by logical subtleties 
which had no reference to anything that was true in fact or 
sound in expression. Not a few Masters postponed Grammar 
to Logic and Metaphysic, but found that they had to revert to 
the rudiments of Latin when their pupils were fast growing up. 
Great heavens, what a time was that when with vast pretension 
the verses of John Garland, eked out with amazing com- 
mentary, were dictated to the class, learnt by heart, and said 
as repetition ! When Florista and the Floretus were set as 
lessons ! Alexander de Villa Dei, compared with such a crowd, 
is worthy of positive commendation. Again, how much time 
was spent in sophistries and vain mazes of logic ! Further, as 
to the manner of teaching, what confused methods, what 
needless toil, characterised instruction ! How common it was 
for a master, for mere display, to cram his lesson with irrele- 
vant matter, wise or foolish, but all equally out of place! All 
this made for needless difficulty; for there is no virtue in 
difficulty, as such, in instruction. And even to-day school- 
masters are not seldom men of no learning at all, or, what is 
worse, of no character. They have taken to teaching as a 
means to a life of ease and money-making. If this has been, 
and is, the true state of education in our schools, no wonder 
that learning perishes amongst us. The critical years of a 
boy's life are allowed to run to waste ; he acquires the habit, 
which cannot be cured, of giving but a fraction of his time and 
thought to serious pursuits, the rest he squanders on vulgar 
pleasures. The parent looks on and does nothing. And yet 
we hear talk of the " tender youth," " undeveloped capacity," 
" meagre results," — all so many excuses for wicked neglect of 
the child in his early years ! 

222 De Pueris Instituendis, 516 

§ 37. Conclusion. 516 a. 

Now I have done. I make my appeal to that practical 
wisdom which you have always exhibited in affairs. Consider 
how dear a possession is your son; how many-sided is learning; 
how exacting its pursuit, and how honourable ! Think how 
instinctive is the child's wish to learn, how plastic his mind, 
how responsive to judicious training, if only he be entrusted to 
instructors at once sympathetic and skilled to ease the first 
steps in knowledge. Let me recall to you the durability of 
early impressions, made upon the unformed mind, as compared 
with those acquired in later life. You know also how hard it 
is to overtake time lost ; how wise, in all things, to begin our 
tasks in season ; how great is the power of persistence in 
accumulating what we prize ; how fleeting a thing is the life 
of man, how busy is youth, how inapt for learning is age. In 
face, then, of all these serious facts you will not suffer, I do not 
say seven years, but three days even, of your son's life to pass, 
before you take into earnest consideration his nurture and 
future education. 



The following passage forms one of the model letters 
comprised in the treatise on Epistolary Composition. It is 
inserted here in the original as a good specimen of Erasmian 
Latin of the later period (1522). 

The advice given has primary reference to private study, 
but it is obviously equally applicable to class work. It should 
be read in conjunction with the section above on The Method 
of reading an Author, and with the De Ratione Studii. 

Qui sit modus repetendae lectionis, that is, Hov^^ to 




Quibusdam prima ac unica fere cura est statim ad verbum 
ediscere; quod equidem non probo, est enim tum magni 
laboris, tum fructus prope nullius. Quorsum enim attinet, 
psittaci more, verba non intellecta reddere? Commodiorem 
igitur viam accipe. 

224 ■ Modus Repetendae Lectionis 


Lectionem quidem auditam continue relege, ita ut uni- 
versam sententiam paulo altius animo infigas. 


Deinde a calce rursus ad caput redibis, et singula verba 
excutere incipies, ea duntaxat inquirens quae ad grammaticam 
curam attinent : videlicet, si quod verbum obscurum, aut 
ancipitis derivationis, si heteroclitae conjugationis ; quod su- 
pinum, quod praeteritum faciat : quos habeat maiores, quos 
nepotes, quam constructionem ; quid significet ; et huiusmodi 


Hoc ubi egeris, rursum de integro percurrito, ea iam 
potissimum inquirens quae ad artificium rhetoricum spectant. 
Si quid venustius, si quid elegantius, si quid concinnius 
dictum videbitur, annotabis indice aut asterisco apposite. 
Verborum compositionem inspicies, orationis decora scrutabere. 
Auctoris consilium indagabis, qua quidque ratione dixerit. 
Ubi quid te delectaverit vehementius cave praeter casam, 
quod aiunt, fugias. Fige pedem, ac abs te ipso rationem 
exige quare tantopere sis ea oratione delectatus, cur non 
ex ceteris quoque parem ceperis voluptatem. Invenies te 
acumine aut exornatione aliqua oratoria, aut compositionis 
harmonia, aut (ne omnia persequar) simili quapiam causa, 
commotum fuisse. Quod si aliquod adagium, si qua sententia, 
si quod proverbium vetus, si qua historia, si qua fabula, si 
qua similitudo non inepta, si quid breviter, acute, aut alioqui 
ingeniose dictum esse videbitur, id tanquam thesaurum quen- 
dam animo diligenter reponendum ducito ad usum et ad 

Modus Repetendae Lectionis 225 


His diligenter curatis ne pigeat quarto iterare. Nam hoc 
habent eruditorum virorum, summo ingenio, summis vigiliis 
elucubrata scripta, ut millies relecta magis magisque placeant, 
semperque admiratori suo novum miraculum ostendant — id 
quod tibi in tabula tua, saepenumero nee sine causa laudata, 
evenire solet — quod antea non animadvertisses. Idem tibi 
multo amplius in bonis auctoribus eveniet. Releges igitur 
quarto, ac quae ad philosophiam, maxime vero ethicen, referri 
posse videantur, circumspicies, si quod exemplum, quod 
moribus accommodari possit. Quid autem est, ex quo non 
vel exemplum vivendi, vel imago quaedam vel occasio sumi 
queat ? Nam in aliorum pulchre ac turpiter factis, quid deceat 
quid non iuxta videmus. 

§ 6. The passage thus thoroughly understood will 


Haec si facies iam vel edidiceris, quanquam aliud egisti. 
Tum demum, si libet, ad ediscendi laborem accedito, qui turn 
aut nuUus erit aut certe perquam exiguus. 

§ 7. Discussion is useful as aid to establishing or 
revising your interpretation and your criticisms. 

Quid deinde? Restat ut, cum studiosis congrediaris, tuas 
annotationes in medium proferas, vicissimque illorum audias, 
alia laudabis, alia reprehendes; tua partim defendes, partim 
castigari permittes. Postremo, quod in aliis laudasti tuis in 
scriptis imitari conaberis. Secreta studia a doctis laudantur, 
at ita ut postea e latebris in arenam prodeamus viriumque 

w. 15 

226 From the Convivium Religiosum 

nostranim periculum faciamus. Id quod sapientissime a 
Socrate est dictum. Experiamur utrum partus ingeniorum 
vitales sint, nimirum obstetricum industriam imitati. Quare 
alternatim utrisque utetur, qui non vulgariter volet evadere 
doctus. Vale. 


The following passage from the Colloquy entitled Con- 
vivium Religiosum is a typical illustration of the Erasmian 
method of handling Natural History and pictorial illustrations 
of Nature, History and Religion for purposes of teaching. 
The Colloquies, the recognised school Reading-book of the 
1 6th century, provided an introduction to eruditio or general 
knowledge as well as practice in Latin. But not less obvious 
than either was its function of inculcating moral lessons. 

Convivium Religiosum, that is, A serious entertainment. 
Op. i. 662. 

The host Eusebius is entertaining friends from the Town 
at his villa, and before breakfast is served shows them the 

Eusebius: This part of the grounds was planned as a 
pleasure garden, but for honest pleasure; for the worthy 
gratification of the senses, yet not less for the recreation of 
the mind. None but sweet-smelling flowers and herbs are 
planted here, and of these only the finest kinds. Each variety 
has a bed to itself 

A guest: It is plain that your plants are not dumb creatures. 

Eusebius: That is true. My villa I built for converse, 
and here everything has its fit utterance, as you will perceive. 
The various plants, for instance, are marshalled in troops, 
each with its ensign, and its motto. The marjoram, I see, 
gives warning by inscription : Abstine, sus, non tibi spiro : 
Keep off, sow, my perfume is not for you. For however 

From the Convivium Religiosum 227 

fragrant, marjoram repels a sow. And in the same way each 
variety has its appropriate title, indicating its peculiar virtue. 

A guest: How charming is this fountain, and the marble- 
lined channel which dividing its course marks out the different 
sections of the garden, reflecting the flowers as in a mirror! 
I see that your artificial fences are green, like the plants. 

Eusebius : Yes, green is my own choice, and in his garden 
a man should follow his fancy. For here I study, or walk, 
or converse, or sometimes even take my meals, as I feel 

A guest : Having so pleasant, so well-furnished a garden, 
wherein reality and nature have done so much for your delight, 
what need have you for that other pleasaunce which I see 
yonder painted on the wall? 

Eusebius : First, because no one garden can contain the 
plants of all climates ; next, I like to see the art of the painter 
pitted against the direct product of the Creator, though both 
art and nature are the gifts of the same divine goodness, and 
intended for man's use. Lastly, a garden is not always green : 
flowers fade with the seasons : this garden remains fresh when 
the other is bare.... In the path beneath our feet, which I have 
had paved with wood, you can see the beauty of painted flowers 
standing forth from the green background. Turn to the wall 
which shelters us. Here we have unfamiliar trees, each tree 
there drawn to the life is a distinct species ; the same is the 
case with the birds shown in the branches, most of them we 
could not see in our own northern gardens : and some of them 
are of extraordinary types. Below the trees are animals that 
haunt the ground. 

A guest : Wonderful is the variety ; and each one is in 
movement, doing, or at least saying, something. Here is an 
Owl, what says she ? 

Eusebius : She speaks Greek : ^w<f>p6v€i, oi iraaiv Iimj/jLu 
That is, "Learn wisdom from me: I do not fly to everyone:" 
It is a lesson against recklessness. There is an eagle devouring 


228 From the Convivium Religiosum 

a hare, and a beetle stands by interceding, but in vain. By 
the beetle stands a wren, the eagle's inveterate foe. The 
swallow has a leaf of celandine in her beak, which she is 
taking to her nest to give sight to her blind unfledged young. 
Near is the chameleon always gaping, because always hungry. 
The wild fig close by is his aversion. 

A guest: How does he change his colour ? 

Eusebius : Only when he moves from one place to another. 
See the camel dancing as the monkey pipes to him. But 
we should need three days to go through each object depicted 
here. In that compartment are all kinds of remarkable plants, 
amongst them the poisonous trees, which we may here ap- 
proach and examine without danger to ourselves. 

A guest : See, here is a scorpion, an animal we rarely see 
in this country, but common enough in Italy, and apt to be 
malignant. The colour in the picture, however, seems hardly 
true to nature. Those in Italy are much darker. 

Eusebius : But do you not recognise the plant upon which 
it has hapt ? It is the wolfsbane : so deadly a poison that at 
the first touch of it the scorpion is stupefied and suddenly 
grows pale. But it is his habit when oppressed by one poison 
to seek an antidote in another. Hard by the scorpion are 
hellebore plants, if the scorpion can but struggle clear of the 
wolfsbane and reach the white hellebore, he will recover, for 
the one will counteract the other. 

A guest : And do your scorpions speak ? 

Eusebius: Yes, and they speak Greek: Evpe Oeoq tov aXi- 
rpov. God hath found out the guilty. Here also you may 
see serpents of all kinds, such as the basilisk, which is not 
ohly formidable for his poisonous bite, for the mere glance 
of his eye is mortal. His motto is, Oderint dum metuant : Let 
them hate, if only they fear me. 

A guest: He speaks like a king. 

Eusebius: Like a Tyrant rather: but not a true King. 
Here is a lizard fighting an adder, and another variety of snake 

From the Convivium Religiosum 229 

just on the spring. Notice the polity of the ants, whom we 
are bidden to imitate by Solomon and Horace. The Indian 
ants are busy carrying off gold to hoard it up. But turn to 
look beyond, where is a third wall facing us. There are lakes, 
rivers, and seas, with the appropriate fishes shown swimming 
in the water. The Nile for instance, in which is a dolphin, 
that natural friend of man, fighting with the deadly enemy of 
man, the crocodile. Upon the banks are such creatures as 
crabs, beavers and seals. Here is a polypus, nipped by an 
oyster. hXpC^v alpovfxaL, he cries, "the biter bit." Close by 
there is a second polypus floating on the surface; and a 
torpedo-fish lying on the sands and hardly discernible. They 
are dangerous enough, but not to us. I will now show you 
the kitchen-garden, and an inner garden planted with healing 
herbs. Upon the right hand there is an orchard, where you 
shall see a great variety of foreign trees which have been 
acclimatised by care. At the end of the upper walk is the 
aviary. Now amongst its denizens you will see birds of many 
forms, of various note, and of divers humours. Some are 
bound to each other by mutual affection, and are again parted 
from others by deep aversion. Then they are so tame and 
friendly that when I am at supper they will fly in at the 
window and take food from my hands. At times they will 
sit listening as I talk to a friend, or perch upon my shoulders 
without any fear, knowing that no one will harm them. At 
the end of the orchard I have my bees, a sight worth seeing. 

Observe this summer apartment, which looks out upon 

the gardens in three directions, and in each of them a fore- 
ground of delicate green meets the eye. When I dine here 
I seem to be dining in the garden itself: nay, the very walls 
are painted in green, with flowers intermixed. There are 
subject pictures also : our Saviour celebrating his Last Supper : 
Herod keeping his birthday : Dives in the midst of his luxury : 
Lazarus driven from his doors. 
A guest: Here are other stories. 

230 From the Convivium Religiosum 

Eusebius: This is Cleopatra, vying with Antony in a race 
of extravagance ; she has swallowed the draught containing 
the pearl. Here is the battle of the Centaurs; there Alexander 
the Great kills Clytus with the lance. These examples 
teach us sobriety at table, and warn against gluttony and 
excess. We will now pass into my Library, my chiefest 
treasure. This hanging Globe is a presentation of the whole 
world. Here upon the wall are the several regions of it 
described more at large. Upon those other walls you have 
pictures of the most eminent authors. First among them is 
Christ sitting upon the Mount, stretching forth his hand. The 
Father speaks. Hear ye Him : the Holy Spirit overshadows 
Him with outstretched wing.... The Library has a little gallery 
looking upon the garden, and an oratory adjoining it. Let 
us pass now to the covered gallery that you have not yet seen. 
Here upon the left hand is depicted the whole life of Jesus 
down to the descent of the Spirit upon the Apostles. And 
there are notes upon the places, so that the spectator may 
see by what lake or upon what mountain such or such an 
event occurred. There are also titles to every story. Over 
against this you have figured the types and prophecies of the 
Old Testament. Upon the upper border are portraits of the 
Popes and of the Caesars, there placed as aids to the due 
remembering of history. At each corner is a belvedere, where 
I can sit down, and view my gardens and my birds; or in 
summer can take my breakfast 



The following List has been compiled to facilitate the identification of, 
and reference to, the works actually qtioted in the text and notes of the present 
volume. It in no way represents the whole body of available authorities, or 
of those which have been consulted for the purpose of this work. 

Abdy (Mrs H.). Isabella d'Este. i voll. 8°. London 1903. 
Alexander de Villa Dei (Grammaticus). Doctrinale, Kritisch-exege- 

tische Ausgabe, bearbeitet von Dietrich Reichling. 8°. Berlin 1893. 
Anon. Vocabularius Breviloqujts. f°. Argent. 1491. 
Arnaud (Car.). Quid de Pueris Instituendis senserit Ludovicus Vives. 

8°. Paris 1887. 
Bailey (N.). The Colloquies of Erasmus, translated by N. Bailey (1725). 

2 voll. 8°. London 1878. 
Becher (Richard). Die Ansichten des Desiderius Erasmus iiber die 

Erziehung und den ersten Unterricht der Kinder. 8°. Leipzig 1890. 
Bembo (Pietro). Opere tutte. 4 voll. f°. Ven. 1729. 
Bembo (Pietro). Delia Vo/gar Lingua Libri ILL f°. Venezia 1525. 
Benoist (A.). Quid de puerorum institutione senserit Erasmus. 8°. 

Parisiis 1876. 
Bruni (L.). Ad P. Paulum Istrum Dialogus. 8°. Greifswald 1888. 
Burckhardt (Jacob). The Civilisation of the period of the Renaissance 

in Italy, translated by S. G. C. Middlemore. 8°. London 1892. 
Burnet (J.). Aristotle on Education, being extracts from the Ethics and 

Politics. 8vo. Cambridge 1902. 
Clerval (L'Abbe A.). Les £coles de Chartres au Moyen Age du V' au 

XVIf Siicle. (Memoires de la Sociite Archeologiqtu d^ Eur e-et- Loire, 

tome XI.) 8°. Chartres 1895. 
Corderius (Maturinns). School Colloquies, English and Latine, divided 

into several classes That children by the help of their Mother-Tongue 

may the better learn td speak Latine in ordinary discourse, by Charles 

Hoole, M.A. 12°. London 1657. 

232 List of Works referred to 

DoLET (fitienne). De Imitatione Ciceroniana adversus Erasmum Rot. pro 

C. Longolio. 8°. Lugd. 1535. 
DOMINICI (Giovanni). Regola del Governo di Cura Familiare. Testo... 

illustrate con note dal Prof. Donato Salvi. 8°. Firenze i860. 
Drummond (Robert B.). Erasmus, his Life and Character as shown in 

his Correspondence and Works. 2 voll. 8°. London 1873. 
Elyot (Sir Thomas). 7he Boke named the Governour. Ed. Crofts. 2 voll. 

8°. London 1880. 
Elyot (Sir Thomas). The Defence of Good Women. T. Berthelet. 8°. 

London [1540]. 
Emerton (Ephraim). Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. New York 1899. 
Erasmus (Desiderius). Opera omnia, emetidatiora et auctiora: cura 

y. Clerici. 10 voll. f°. Lugd. Bat. 1703 — 6. 
Fairbairn (A. M.). Tendencies of European Thought in the age of the 

Reformation (ch. xix. in the Cambridge Modern History, vol. ii.). 8°. 

Cambridge, 1904. 
FEUGfeRE (Gaston). £rasme. £tude sur sa vie et ses ouvrages. 8°. Paris 

Floridus Sabinus (Franciscus). In Latinae linguae scriptorum calumnia- 

tores Apologia. f°. Bas. 1540. 
FoRTUNio (Giovanni Francisco). Regole Grammaticali delta volgar lingua. 

8°. Ancona 15 16. 
Froude (James Anthony). Life and Letters of Erasmus: Lectures at 

Oxford 1893 — 4. 8°. London 1894. 
Gaspary (Ad.). Storia delta Letteratura Italiana (from the German). 

3 voll. 8°, Torino 1887 — 1901. 
Geiger (Ludwig). Rinascimento e Umanismo in Italia e in Gertnania: 

traduzione Italiana del Valbiisa. 8°. Milano 1 89 1 . 
Ghent, University of. Bibliotheca Erasmiana. 4°. ^ pts., and 8°. 3 voll. 

Gand 1893 etc. 
Gloeckner (Dr G.). Das Ideal der Bildung und Erziehung bet Erasmus 

von Rotterdam. 8°. Dresden 1889. 
HORAWITZ (Adalbert). Erasmiana (in Sitzungsberichte der K. Akademie 

der Wissenschaften). 8°. Wien 1878 — 1885. 
Israel (A.). Sammlung selten geivordener pddagogischer Schriften des i6 

und \i Jahrhunderts. 8''. Zschopau 1893 etc. 
Jebb (R. C). The Classical Renaissance (being ch. xvi. in the Cambridge 

Modern History, vol. i.). 8°. Cambridge 1902. 
Jebb (R. C.) Erasmus (Rede Lecture 1890), 2nd edition. 8°. Cambridge 

KUECKELHAHN (L.). Johannes Sturm, Strassburg's erster Schulrector. 

8°. Leipzig 1872. 

List of Works referred to 233 

Lowndes (M. E.). Michel de Montaigne, a biographical study. 8°. 

Cambridge 1898. 
LuPTON (J. H.). A Life of John Colet, D.D. 8°. London 1887. 
Melanchthon (P.). De Corrigendis Studiis (15 18) in Corpus Reforma- 

tortim, xi. p. 15. 8°. Halle 1834 — 1860. 
MiRANDULA (Giovanni Pico della). De Imitatione. 8°. Venet. 1530. 
Mueller (Johannes). Vor- imd friihreformatorische Schulordnungen ttnd 

Schulvertrdge m Deutscher und Niederldtulischer Sprache. 8°. Zschopau 

Nausea (Fridericus), Bishop of Vienna. De Puero Uteris instituendo. 

Col. 1536. 
Nichols (Francis Morgan). The Epistles of Erasmus, from his earliest 

letters to his fifty-first year . Vol. i. 8°. London 1901. 
NoLHAC (Pierre de). £rasme en Italic. 8". Paris 1888. 
Pater (W.). Mariiis the Epicurean. Seconded. 2 voll. 8 vo. London 1885. 
Paulsen (Friedrich). Geschichte des Gelehrten Unterrichts auf den Detit- 

schen Schulen und Universitdten vom Ausgang des Alittelalters bis ztir 

Gegenwart. 8°. Leipzig 1885. 
PICCOLOMINI (Aeneas Sylvius). Opera, f". Basil. 1551. 
POLITIANUS (Angelas). Omnia Opera. f°. Venet. 1^8. 
QuiNTiLlANUS (M. Fabius). Institutionis oratoriae Liber Decimus. Ed. 

W. Peterson, M.A. 8°. Oxford 1891. 
Raleigh (Walter). The Book of the Courtier, translated by Thomas Hoby, 

with Introduction by the Editor. 8°. London 1900. 
Raumer. Geschichte der Pddagogik. 2 voll. 8°. Berlin 1880. 
RiCHTF.R (Dr Arthur). Erasmus- Studien. 8°. Dresden 1891. 
Roesler (A.). Kardinal Johannes Dominicis Erziehungslehre. 8°. Frei- 
burg 1894. 
RossiGNOL (J. -P.). De r Education et de t Instruction des Hommes et des 

Eemmcs chez les Anciens. 8°. Paris 1888. 
Sabbadini (R.). Franciscus Floridus Sabinus. Article in the Giornale 

Storico della Letteratura Italiana, vol. viii. p. 333. 8°. Torino. 
Sabbadini (R.). La Scuola e gli Studi di Guarino Guarini Veronese. 8°. 

Catania 1896. 
Sabbadini (R.). Prolusione al corso di Letteratura Italiana nella P. 

Universita di Catania. Catania 1894. 
Sabbadini (R.). Storia del Ciceronianismo e di altre questioni letterarie 

neir eth della Rinascenza. 8°. Torino 1885. 
Sadoleto (J.). De Liberis recte instituetulis mj. Scuioleti... opera, tom. iii. 

p. 66. 4to. Veronae 1738. 
Sandys (John Edwin). A History of Classical Scholarship from the Sixth 

Century B.C. to the end of the Middle Ages. 8°. Cambridge 1903. 


234 List of Works referred to 

SCALIGER (Julius Cacsar). Pro M. T. Cicerone contra Desiderium Eras- 
mum Roter. Oratio I. 8°. Tolosae 1620. 
The same. Oratio II. Tolosae 1 620. 
ScHMiD (K.). Encyklopddie des gesamten Erziehungs- tind Unterrichts- 

wesens. 11 vols. 8°. Gotha 1858 etc. 
Seebohm (Frederic). The Oxford Reformers of 1498; Colet, Erastnus, 

More. 3rd ed. 8°. London 1867. 
Spitzner (Johannes). Beitrag zur Kritik der Unterrichts- tend Erziehungs- 

lehre des Desiderius Erasmus auf Grund seiner " Declamatio de Fueris 

liberaliter instituendis.^' 8°. Leipzig 1893. 
Sturm (Johannes). De Literarum Ludis recte apadendis Liber. 12°. 

Argent. 1543. 
Sylvius (Aeneas). See Piccolomini. 
Thurot (Charles). Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothique 

Imperiale etc. Tome xxii. 4°. Paris 1868. 
ToGEL (Dr Hermann). Die pddagogischen Anschauungen des Erasmus in 

ihrer psychologischen Begriindung. 8°. Dresden 1896. 
TOPSELL (Edward). The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes. i°. London 

Valla (Laurentius). Elegantiae Linguae Latinae. 4". Venet. (Jenson) 

Veil (H.). Zum Geddchtnis Joh. Sturms in Festschrift zur Feier des 

^lo-jdhrigen Bestehens des Protestantischen Gymnasiums zu Strassburg 

(Erster Theil). 8°. Strassburg 1888. 
ViLLARl (P.). The Life and Times of Niccolb Machiavelli. Translated by 

Linda Villari. 2 voll. 8°. London 1892. 
ViVES (J. L.). De disciplinis libri XX. J. Gymnicus. Coloniae 1532. 
ViVES (J. L.). De officio mariti. 8°. Brugis 1529. 

ViVES (J. L.). De institutione foeminae Christianae. 4°. Antverpiae 1524. 
VoiGT (G.). Die Wiederbelebung des Classischen Alterthums. 2 voll. 

8°. Berlin 1893. 
Ward (A. W.). The Netherlands (being ch. xiii. in the Cambridge Modern 

History, vol. i.). 8°. Cambridge 1902. 
Watson (Foster). The Curriculum and Text-books of English Schools in 

the first half of the Seventeenth Century. 4°. London 1903. 
Woodward (William Harrison). Vittorino da Feltre and other Humanist 

Educators. 8°. Cambridge 1897. 

Note. — A useful bibliography of German humanism will be found in 
Paulsen's Geschichte des Gelchrten Unterrichts, and others in the 
Cambridge Alodern History, voll. i. and ii. 

XVI. Cent, versions of Erasmus 235 


The following List of first editions of English Versions of works by 
Erasmus is certainly incomplete, but it is less so than any hitherto avail- 
able. Biblical works are excepted. I shall be grateful for all information 
which may aid in enlarging or correcting the particulars here given, w. H. w. 


Proverbes or adagies with newe addicions gathered out of the 
Chiliades of Erasmus, by R. Taverner. Hereunto be also added 
Mimi Publiani. 8°. [R. Bankes:] London 1539. 

A modest meane to marriage, translated into englishe by N[icholas] 
L[eigh]. 16°. London 1568. 

Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte, quicke, wittie and sen- 
tencious saiynges of certain Emperours, Kynges...into englyshe by 
N. Udall. 8°. R. Grafton: London 1542. 

A translation of Books III. and IV. only. 

Dicta Sapientium. The sayenges of the wyse men of Grece, in 
Latin with the Englysshe followyng. . .interprete. . .by .. .Erasmus Rote.. . . 
12°. T. Berthelet : London [c. 1550]. 

Berthelet printed 1530 — 1555. 

Flores aliquot sententiarum ex variis collecti scriptoribus. The 
flowers of sentencies gathered out of sundry wrj'ters by Erasmus in 
Latine, and englished by Richard Taverner. 8'='. R. Bankes : London 

The colophon reads " Printed in Fletestrete very diligently under 
the correction of the selfe R. Taverner by R : Bankes...." "The work 
is not really by Erasmus, though partly founded on his Apophthegmata. 
The author was Taverner." E. G. D. 

Sage and Prudent saiynges of the seaven Wyse Men ; Wyse saiynges 
and Prety Tauntes of Publius. R. Grafton : London 1545. 

Certain flours of most notable sentences of wise men, gathered 
together by Erasmus of Roterdam, and translated into English. 
[A supplement to An Introducion to w^sedome made by Ludovicus 
Vives.] 8°. John Daye: London (? 1546). 
BELLUM. (Ex Adagiis.) 

Bellum, trans, into englyshe. 8^. Tho. Berthelet: London 1533-4. 

236 XVI. Cent, versions of Erasmus 


Preceptes of Cato, with annotations of D. Erasmus of Roterodame, 
very profytable for all men. Newly imprynted and corrected ; Trans- 
lated out of Latyn into Englysshe by Robert Burrant. R. Grafton: 
London 1545. 


A dialogue or communication of two persons... pylgremage of pure 
devotion.... 8°. [John Byddell : London c. 1538]. 
Byddell printed 1533-44. 

A mery dialogue, declaringe the propertyes of shrowde shrewes and 
honest wyves. 8°. Antony Kytson : London 1557. 

A mery dialogue declaryng the properties of shrowde shrewes and 
honest wyves. 4°. Abr. Vele: London [c. 1557]. 

Apparently the same impression as the above. Cf. Hazlitt, ill. 76. 
Vele or Veale printed 1551-86. 

A seraphical dirige, disclosing the 7 secret priviledges graunted to 
S. Francis and all his progenie for ever. 8°. John Byddell : London 
[c. 1538]. 

Epicureus, translated by Philyppe Gerard. 16°. Rich. Grafton: 
London 1545. 

[Erasmus Rotordamus contaynynge a moste pleasaunt Dialoge 
towchynge the entertaynment and vsage of gaystes in comen Innes 
etc.] [?W. Griffith: London c. 1566.] 

"No copy of this work is known to me; but the book was licensed 
to W. Griffith in 1566. Cf Arber's Stationers' Register i. 334. " e.g.d. 

Funus, lately the request of a certayne gentylman. 
16°. John Skot: London 1534. 

One dialogue or colloquy (intituled " Diversoria ") translated... by- 
E. H. 40. W. Griffyth: London 1566. 

Two called Polyphemus... the other dysposyng of 
thynges and names, trans, by E. Becke. 8°. J. Mychell : Canterbury 
[c. 1550]. 

Mychell printed 1 549-56. 


A sermon of the chyld Jesus. 8°. Rob. Redman: London [c. 1531]. 
Redman printed 1523-40. 


A lytell Booke of good Maners for chyldren...with Interpretacion... 
into the vulgare Englysshe Tonge by Robert Whytynton, Laureate 
Poete. 16°. W. de Worde : London 1532. 

XVI. Cent, versions of Erasmus 237 


De contemptu mundi epistola, translated in to englysshe [by 
T. Paynell]. i6°. Tho. Berthelet: London 1533. 

De immensa dei misericordia (trans, at the request of the lady 
Margaret Countese of Salisburye by Gentian Hervet). 8°. Tho. 
Berthelet: London 1533. 

De immensa Dei misericordia. Trans, from the Latin of Erasmus 
by Gentian Hervet. 4°. T. Berthelet: London [c. 1543]. 
Berthelet printed 1530-1555. 

A treatise perswadyng a man paciently to suffer the death of his 
freend [preceded by the Tables of Cebes, the philosopher, trans.' by 
Sir F. Poyngz ; and How one may take profit of his enemies, trans, 
out of Plutarch]. 16°. Tho. Berthelet: London [c. 1550]. 

Preparation to deathe, a boke as devout as eloquent. 8°. Tho. 
Berthelet: London 1543. 

A booke called in Latyn Enchiridion militis Christiani and in 
englysshe the manuel of the christen knyght, plenysshed with most 
holsome preceptes....To the which is added a newe and mervaylous 
profytable preface [trans, attributed to W. Tyndale]. 8°. Wynkin de 
Worde, for Johan Byddell, othervvyse Salisbury: London, Nov. 15, 

An edition is given in Bibliotheca Erasmiana. 8°. Basel (? London, 

W. de Worde) 15 18. 

"There is no authority for the edition of 1518." E. G. D. 

A ryght frutefull laude and prayse of matrymony, trans. 
by R. Tavernour. 8". Robert Redman: London [c. 1530]. 
Redman printed 1523-40. 

An epistle of... Erasmus... concernynge the veryte of the sacrament 
of Christus body and bloude...dedycated...unto...Balthasar bysshop 
of Hyldesheimensem. 8°. R. Wyer: [London 1535]. 
An epystell...unto...Christofer bysshop of Basyl, cocemyng the 
forbedynge of eatynge of flesshe, and lyke constitutyons of men. 
8°. Thorn. Godfray: London [c. 1532]. 

Godfray printed in 1532. 

238 XVI. Cent, versions of Erasmus 


A lytle treatise of the maner and forme of confession. 8°. J. Byddell : 
London [c. 1538]. 

A playne and godly expossytion or declaration of the commune 
crede...and of the ten commaundements of Goddes law; at the request 
of Thomas, erle of Wyltshyre. 12°. R. Redman: [London] 1533. 


The godly and pious institution of a christen man. 8°. Thom. 
Berthelet : London 1537. 

An English translation of Erasmus' metrical version of Colet's 


That chyldren oughte to be taught and broughte up getly in vertue 
and learnynge [preceded by- A treatise of schemes and tropes, gathered 
out of the best grammarians and oratours by Rychard Sherry, 
Londoner]. 8°. John Day: London [c. 1555]. 
John Day printed 1546-84. 


The praise of folic... englished by Sir Thom. Chaloner. 4°. Th. 
Berthelet: London 1549. 

(In the colophon the date is printed MDLXix.) 

An exhortation to the diligent studye of scripture... translated in to 

englissh (by W. Roy?). 8°. Hans Luft: Malborow 1529. 

"Very probably printed at Cologne." E. G. D. 

An exhortacyon to the dylygent study of scripture, made by 

Erasmus of Roterdam, and lately translated into Englyshe, which 

he fixed before the new testament. 12°. Robert Wyer: London 

[c. 16.^5]- 

Erasmus on the sacrament, and an exhortation to the study and 
readynge of the gospell. ...Done at Basle 1522. 12°. Robert Wyer: 
London [c. 1535]. 

Wyer printed 1527-42. 


A devout treatise upon the Pater noster. 4°. W. de Worde: 
London 1524. 

"This edition is doubtful." E. G. D. 
A devout treatise upon the Pater noster. [With a preface by 
R. Hyrde dated Oct. i, 1524.] Th. Berthelet: London [c. 1530]. 

XVI. Cent, versions of Erasmus 239 


The complaint of jjeace, trans, by T. Paynell 8°. John Cawoode : 
London 1559. 

The censure and judgement of Erasmus: Whyther dyvorsemente 
betweene man and wyfe stondeth with the law of God. ..trans, by 
N. Lesse. 8». Printed by the widowe of John Herforde : London 
[c. 1550]. 

The widow of J. Herforde printed 1 549-50. 

SILENI ALCIBIADIS (Ex Adagiis chiliad. Ill, cent. III). 

A scornful image or monstrous shape of a marvelous strange figure 
called Sileni Alcibiadis presenting ye state and condicion of this 
present world.... 16°. John Goughe: London [c. 1535]- 

"Gough apparently never printed, but was in business as a book- 
seller, 1526-X543." E. G. D. 

A comparation of a vyrgin and a marter, trans, by Thomas Paynel. 
8°. T. Berthelet: London 1537. 


Adagia, ii, 17 

Adrian VI, Pope, 26 

Aeschylus, 37 

Aesop, 106, in, 212 

Agricola, Rudolphus, 3 

Aldus, E. the guest of, 16, 17 ; his 
printing house, 17, 45, 138 

Alexander de Villa Dei, 104 n. 

Allegory, use of, 49 

Ambrose, St, 28, 113, 140 

Antiquity, E. and, 30 seqq. ; in re- 
lation to Christianity, 39 seqq. 

Apophthegmata, of Plutarch, in; 
E.'s collection, 159 

Ariosto, 68 

Aristophanes, 112, 113 

Aristotle, the Ethics of, i, 114; the 
Physica of, 147 ; the Politics of, 
I3'» i35> 140 ' 01^ women's edu- 
cation, 152 

Arithmetic, 145, 212 

Astrology, 138, 142, 145-6 

Athenaeus, 139 

Augustine, St, 28, 140 ; works of, 
edited by E., 28 ; in relation to 
classical culture, 49, 113, 140 

Aurispa, 138 

Authors, choice of, in seqq. ; 
method of reading, X15 seqq., 
158. 223 

Barzizza, Gasparino, 127 

Basel, E. at, 22, 25 ; his friends at, 

25, 29 ; dies at, 29 
Basil, St, 49, 140 
Beccadelli, Antonio, 33 

Bembo, Pietro, Cardinal, 54, 56-7 ; 

and the use of vernacular, 66, 70, 

Bernard of Clairvaux, 140 
Biondo, Flavio, 129 
Boccaccio, 140 

Bois-le-Duc, E. at school at, 4 
Bombasius, 45 
Borgia, Cesare, 42 
Borgia, Rod., Alexander VI, 26, 

Bruni, Lionardo, d' Arezzo, 5 1 , 1 1 5 n ., 

131. 132 
Budaeus, 23, 138 

Caesar, C. Julius, 112 
Cambrai, Bp of, 7 
Cambridge, 14, 20, 21 
Castiglione, B., 60 
Cato pro pueris, 20 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 42 
Chalcondylas, the Greek Grammar 

of, no 
Charles V, Emperor, 23 
Chartres, the Schools at, 103 
Christian Latinists in education, 

Christiani Matrimonii Instttutio, 

89, 91. 154 
Christianity and Antiquity, 35, 48, 

Chrysoloras, 30 ; the Erotemata of, 

used by E., no n. 
Chrysostom, St, and antiquity, 49, 

Cicero, 54, 112, 122, 136; as mora- 



list, 46 ; the Ttisculans of, 48 ; 

the De Officiis, 131 
Ciceronianism, E. and, 27, 51 seqq. 
Ciceronianus, Dialogus, 27, 48, 52, 

Coins, a knowledge of, 139 ; in- 
scriptions upon, 97 

Colet, John, Dean of St Paul's, 7, 
10, II, 13, 19, 20, 114; his in- 
fluence on E., 45 

Collationary Brothers, 4 

Colloquia {Colloquies, Colloquiorum 
formulae), 23, 24, 96, 99, 106, 
109, 126, 142, 147, 149, 226 

Comenius, J., \}a&Janua of, 109 

Composition, 123 seqq., 169 

Concio de Puero Jesu, 20 

Convivium Religiosum, 142, 220 

Cordier, Mathurin, the Dialogues of, 

Cortegiano, II, 74, 142 

Cortesius, 52 

Courtier, the, as ideal of an edu- 
cated man, 76, 77 

Cromwell, Thomas, 40 

Cyprian, St, 114 

De Civilitate Morum Pueriliiim, 73, 

De Conscribendts Epistolis, 126, 223 

De Constrtictione, 21, 107 

De Copia, 12, 20, 117, 121, 126, 
128, 146 

De Libero A r bit r to, 26 

De Pueris Inslituendis, 27, 48, 155, 
180 seqq. 

De Ratione Studii, 20, iii seqq., 
142, 159, 162 

De Recta Pronuntiatione, 2 7, 1 24, 147 

Declamation, as form of composi- 
tion, 127 

Definitions, mediaeval, 102 

Demosthenes, 112, 122 

Deventer, E. at school at, 2, 3, 4 

Dialectic and Grammar, 102 

Discipline, 91, 98, 100, 205 

Dolet, 6tienne, 27, 52, 53 n. 

Dominici, Giovanni, 39 

Donatus, loi, 102 

Drawing, 98 

Ebrardus, * Graecista,' 3, 103 n. 

Education, aim of, 72 seqq. ; antique 
ideal of, 35, 64 ; E.'s concern for, 
20, 21, 182 seqq., 215 ; power of, 
81, 187; social end of, 65, 73, 
160; of women, 87, 148 seqq. 

Elegantiae Linguae Latinae, 6, 
104, 127, 165 

Eloquence, content of the term, 124; 
its importance in Italy, 120 seqq. 

Elyot, Sir Thomas, 23, 76, 105, 
114, 132, 145 n-. 153 

Enchiridion, 1 3 

Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, 22 

Epistolary Style, 124, 125 

Erasmus, biography of, i seqq, ; 
characteristics, 30 ; chronology of 
writings of, x seqq. ; works of, in 
English, 235 ; and vernacular 
languages, 62 seqq. 

Erasmus, St, Bishop and Martyr, i 

Eratosthenes, 139 

Eruditio, in education, 78, 139 seqq., 

Estienne, Robert, 75 n., 137 n. 

Eton Latin Grammar, 108 

Etymologies, mediaeval, 44 n. 

Euripides, E.'s versions from, 13, 
14, 16 

Fame, as motive, 42 

Ferrara, E. at, 17 

Ficino, 15, 37, 39 

Filelfo, 39, 43, 115 n. 

Florence, E. at, 15 

Floridus, Franciscus, 66 seqq. 

Florista, 103, 221 

Folk-lore in education, 106, 214 

Fox, Bishop, 14 

Froben, 22, 28 

Gaguin, R., 7 

Galen, 137 

Garlandia, J. de, 3, 103 n., 221 

Gaza, Theodore, the Greek Grairi- 

mar of, 21, no 
Gellius, Aulus, 139 
Geography, 139, 143-4. I45. 212 
Geometry, 146 
Gerard, father of E., i 



Girls, education of, 148 seqq. 

Gouda, E. at school at, i 

Grammar, the teaching of, loiseqq., 

Grammarians, mediaeval, 103, I04n., 

Greek, in the Augustan Age, 1 36 ; 
Christianity and, 35, 136 ; E.'s 
enthusiasm for, 12, 13, 34; the 
study of, II, 45, 135; texts, 
scarcity of, 13, 137; teaching of, 
98, no, 135 seqq.; translations 
from, by E., 13 

Greek Testament, E.'s edition of, ^^ 

Grocyn, 14 

Guarino da Verona, 104 n. ; and 
Terence, 113 

Guicciardini, 132 

Hegius, 2, 3 

Helias, Petrus, 102-3 

Henry VIII of England, 18 

Herodotus, 112, 129 

Hesiod, 134, 140, 198 

Hippocrates, 137 

Historians, useful in education, 128 

History, study and value of, 128 

Home education, 90 seqq., 155 

Homer, 112, 140; allegorical in- 
terpretation of, 49 

Horace, 112, 114, 134 

Humanism and Christianity, 31, 47 

Humanists, at Rome, 17, 45, 59 ; 
critics of ecclesiastical claims, 44 ; 
upon antique knowledge, 33 

Imitation, 52, 54 seqq. 
Individual, the, in the Renaissance, 

40, 120 
Individuality in education, 81, 131, 

159' '60 
Inscriptions, 139 

Institutio Principis Christiatn, 23 
Institututn Christiani Hominis, 2 1 
Interest, E.'s doctrine of, 99, 119 
Isidore of Seville, loi 
Italian as literary language, 69, 70 
Italy, E. visits, 15 seqq. 

Jerome, St, E.'s interest in, 21, 22; 
his relation to classical culture, 49, 

"3. '36. 150 
Jesuits, the Jamia of the, 109 
Julius II, Pope, 16, 59 
Juvencus, 114 

Lactantius, 114 

Language method, E.'s doctrine of, 

105-6, no 
Lascaris, J., the Greek Grammar 

of, no 
Latinity, E. and, 6, 51 seqq. 
Leo X, Pope, 22, 26 
Lily, \V., 21, 107 
Linacre, 14, 138 
Livy, 113, 116, 126; the speeches 

in, 122 
Logic, in education, 133 seqq., 165 
London, E. in, 14 
Louvain, E. at, 12, 14, 23, 25; 

Collegium Trilingue at, 24 
Lucan, 122, 124 
Lucian, E.'s versions from, 13, I4, 

1 12 
Ludolphus (Florista), 103 n. 
Luther, 66, 123 

Machiavelli, 31, 42, 60, 82, 123, 

Macrobius, 139 

Manners, teaching of, 156 seqq. 
Mantuanus, Baptista, 115 n. 
Manual arts, 148 
Margaret, mother of E. , i, 2, 4 
Martial, E.'s objection to, 47 
Mathematics in education, 138 seqq. 
Mediaevalists, 37, 38, 109, in, 

'34. 135 

Mela, Pomponius, 140, 145 
Melanchthon, 51,84, 119, 123, 133, 

Michael de Marbais, ' Modista,' 

103 n. 
Michelangelo, 31 
Modi significandi, 102 
Monastic life, E.'s recollections of, 

5, 6, 7 ; schools, 92 
Montaigne, 96, 105 
Montaigu, College de, 7 



Moral training, 37, 154 seqq. 
Moralia of Plutarch, iii, 159 
More, Sir Thomas, 14, 150; his 

influence on E., 45, 62, 74, 149, 

Moriae Encomium., 19, 62 
Motives in education, 99 
Mountjoy, Lord, a patron of E., 

8, lo 
Music, 145 seqq., 212 
Musurus, 17, 45 

Nationality, E. and, 33, 84 
Natura, 79, 80, 81, 155, 183, 187, 

Natural science, 84, 85, 138 seqq., 

189, 190, 226 
Nausea, 1 14 

Note-taking, E.'s advice upon, 119 
Nuremberg, school at, 137 

Orator, the, concept of, 122 ; as 
ideal of educated man, 76, 77, 

Orators in education, 121 
Oratory, study of, 1 20 ; function of, 

in the Renaissance, 120, 121 
Origeh, 49, 137 
Ovid, 140 
Oxford, E. at, 10, 11 

Padua, E. at, 17; the Ciceronian 

tradition at, 27 
Pannonius, Janus, 43 
Papias, 102, 103 n. 
Paraphrases, The, 28 
Paris, E. at, 7, 8 
Pater, Walter, 60 
Patronage, E. and, 8, 9 
Paumgarten, 1 50 
Perotti, Nicola, 104, 109, 127 
Petrarch, 99, 131 n., 115 n., 120 
Philosophy, E.'s attitude towards, 

37. 133. 191 
Physical training, 77, 87 seqq., 

Physics, 147 
Pico, Giovanni, della Mirandula, 

27. 37. 52. 56 

Pictures in education, 96, 106, 139, 

142, 213, 227 
Pirckheimer, 74, 150 
Plato, 37, 46, 114, 134, 140, 141 
Platonic Academy, 39 n. 
Platonic philosophy, 49, 134, 135 n. 
Plautus, 112, 113 
Pliny, Letters of, 127; Natural 

History of, 139, I45 
Plotinus, 1 40 
Plutarch, 37, iii, 129. 134, 186 ; 

E.'s versions from, 21 
Poets, for school use, 112, 113, 114 
Poggio, IS, 51, 131 
Political theory, 38, 134 
Poliziano, Angelo, 15, 27, 52, 55, 

115, 123, 220 
Printers of school texts, 137 n. 
Priscian, loi, 102, 103 n. 
Prudentius, 114 

Psychology of E., 46, 78 seqq. 
Ptolemy, 140, 145 
Punishments, 99, 205 seqq., 209 

Quintilian, 20, 54, loi, in, 121, 
122, 127, 128, 136, 138, 143 

Quintilian, the Epitome of, by 
Patrizi, 121 n. 

Ratio, or Reason, in human nature, 

78 seqq., 183, 192 
Reading, 97, 215 
' Real ' Studies, 138 seqq. 
Reformation, beginnings of, 24 ; 

E. in relation to, 25, 26 ; effects 

of, upon humanism, 40 
Religion, rudiments of, 90^ 154 

Renaissance in Italy and Northern 

Europe, 30, 31, 40, 41, 155 
Respublica Litteraria, 65 
Reuchlin, 19, 137 
Rhetoric, 122, 127 
Romances, 114 
Rome, E. at, 17, 18; Ciceronians 

there, 45, 59 

Sadoleto, 37, 78, 83, 87, 89, 105, 

130. 134 
Sallust, 112, 122, 139 



Scaliger, Julius Caesar, 27, 52, 54 

Scholasticism, E. in relation to, 7, 
103, 104, III, 134 

School age, 80, 81, 91 n. 

Schoolmasters, status and qualifi- 
cations of, 93 seqq., 95, 99, 167, 
203, 210; provision of, 209 

Schools, type of, approved by E., 
83, 92 n., 204 

Scotus, 134 

Seneca, iii, 134, 159 

Servius, loi 

Siena, E. at, 17 

Sintheim, 3, 104 n. 

Socrates, 114, 134 

Stein, Augustinian House at, 5, 

6, 31 
Strabo, 140 
Sturm, Johann, 73, 90, 122, 123, 

Sunitnulae Logicae, 134 
Sylvius, Aeneas, Pius II, 64, 121, 

127, 145 

Tacitus, 46, 113, 129, 159 
Terence, Comedies of, edited by E., 

28, 113; humanist admiration 

for, 28, 112, 113, 134, 159, 164; 

objections to, 39 n. 
Testamentum Novum, Greek text 

of, edited by E., 22 
Theophrastus, 140 
Thomas Aquinas, 154 
Thucydides, 128 
Titus, Epistle to, 137 
Tours, 103 

Training, 80, 183, 191, 192 
Trapezuntius, 127 

Travel in education, 160 
Turin, E. at, 15 

Urbanus, the Greek Grammar of, 

Usus, 79, 80 
Utrecht, E. at school at, 2 

Valerius Maximus, 134 

Valla, Lorenzo, 6, 33, 104, 109, 
127; on Donation 0/ Const antine, 
44 ; on the New Testament, 13 

Venice, E. at, 16 

Vergerio, P. P., 39, 42 n., 83 

Vergil, reverence for, 46 ; to be 
understood by way of Allegory, 
49 ; didactic uses of, 174 

Vernacular tongues, E.'s position 
towards, 36, 60 

Virtu, 42, 120 

Vitruvius, 60 

Vittorino da Feltre, 33, 51, 57, 95 

Vives, 64, 114, 133, 153 n. 

Vocabularius Breviloquus, 104 n. 

Vulgate for school use, 1 1 1 

War, E.'s dislike of, 35, 189 
Warham, Archbishop, 14, 22, 62 
Wimpheling, 114, 115 
Winckel, P., guardian of E., 2 
Women, as teachers of boys, 94, 

95 ; education of, 148 seqq. ; 

place of, in Italian Society of 

Renaissance, 149 
Writing, the teaching of, 97 

Xenophon, 128 

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